Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, children and teens have been struggling with more anxiety and depression. But many parents and caregivers are struggling too – and to be there for their child, they need to take care of their own mental health.
Here are a few tips to support your mental health:
Give yourself permission to do a “good enough” job as a parent.
Recognize that your “best” right now may be different from prior expectations for yourself, whether that’s your child’s screen time or your family meal-planning. That’s okay. Use this moment in time to model how important it is to be balanced. Be aware of not setting unrealistic goals for yourself or your child.
When stress is getting the better of you, pause.
If you are in a situation where you might react to your child with intensity or hostility, pause. Take a breath, and go to a separate space until you can react with control.
To help, try asking:
What would I tell someone else in this situation? Would I tell them to respond the way I’m about to respond?
What is the rule that says I need to respond this way? Where did it come from? Am I interested in changing it?
Remember: An intense or hostile reaction will never help. It could, however, hurt your connection with your child. Unless your child is in danger, your best reaction may be no reaction.
Tag in a trusted helper.
This could be your child’s sibling, therapist, guidance counselor, teacher, clergy, family friend, or another parent. It’s okay to say, “I’m noticing that my child is really struggling, but I’m having a hard time connecting with them because of how overwhelmed I am. Can I ask you to play a game with them or take them for a walk?”
Get mental health support.
For your child to be able to come to you, your own tank can’t be empty. If you’re struggling, the greatest gift you can give to your child is to seek mental health support for yourself.
Telehealth services have created more access than ever before. Please don’t give up on finding someone to help. Ask your primary care doctor, contact your local health department, or connect through your employer’s employee assistance program.