Parental Mental Health and Managing Family Stress

Being a parent brings a lot of challenges and for parents that have a mental health problem, these challenges can be exacerbated. We are therefore highlighting parental mental health this Stress Awareness Month to emphasise the importance of parents and carers effectively looking after themselves.

Mental Health and Parenting

When experiencing poor mental health, it may be difficult to deal with day-to-day challenges of parenting, manage your mood or emotions, care for your children and/or manage their behaviour and set boundaries (Mental Health Foundation, 2022). This may be due to suffering low energy or feeling worried due to depression or anxiety, for example.

Experiencing lots of stress could lead to developing a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression (Mind, 2024). Family stress will differ from family-to-family depending on individual circumstances. However, common examples include financial issues, work stress, maintaining a work-life balance, disagreements about discipline, bereavement, relationship breakdown and serious illness of a parent or child (Degges-White and Abulhosn, 2024).

Handling Family Stress

Similar to managing personal stress, family stress can be handled by maintaining self-care and routines and seeking professional support when needed.

In addition, it may be necessary to revisit parenting styles and learn better ways to communicate (Degges-White and Abulhosn, 2024). The purpose of this is to adapt if the current parenting style doesn’t fit the needs or personality of your children. Furthermore, knowing how to communicate effectively not only helps to manage stress but by using positive means of communication, parents can demonstrate positive stress management for children.

Taking care of your mental health

There are several coping strategies that can be adopted to look after your mental health and wellbeing. This is explored by the NSPCC (2024) who suggest:

  • Maintaining healthy sleep routines.
  • Writing down your feelings.
  • Joining a support group or network online.
  • Taking time for yourself.
  • Physical activity and exercise.
  • Setting routines for you and your family.

Being a parent, it can be easy to put your children, caring responsibilities, household tasks and work before yourself but it is imperative that you take time for you. This is important because it can stop problems developing or worsening (Mind, 2024).