Parenting with a mental health problem

Explains difficulties you may face as a parent with a mental health problem, support available and suggestions on how to help yourself and your children.

Your stories

Coping with parents' evening

Naomi blogs about living with a mental health problem while coping with some of the challenges of parenthood.

Posted on 14/04/2015

Postnatal depression and the myth of the ‘perfect’ mum

Sara blogs about her postnatal depression experience and the pressure to be the 'perfect' Mum.

Sara Powys
Posted on 04/08/2016

What can I do to help myself?

Parenting with a mental health problem can be difficult and there is no one solution that will sort out everything.

However, there are lots of things that can make a positive difference. This section suggests several things you can try that might help:

Perfect people or perfect parents don’t exist – just focus on one day at a time and do the best you can.

Taking steps to look after your mental health
  • Finding exercise that you enjoy will also reduce your stress levels. Online fitness classes can be done at home.
  • Eat a healthy diet for a healthy immune system and a clear mind.
  • Connect with nature for a rejuvenating boost.
  • Develop self-help tools, such as mindfulness or relaxation.
  • Make regular time for yourself with no external demands ('me' time) – even 10 minutes a day can help.
  • Explore different treatment options so that you know what works for you.
Having a support network in place
  • Let people know early if you are finding it hard to cope and need support.
  • Ask for practical help such as childcare, transport and cooking meals.
  • Ask the school or nursery to keep an eye out for any behaviour changes in your children.
  • Find out if your employer offers flexible hours to help you manage the demands of working while parenting.
  • Try to identify one or two people who you can ask for emotional support.
Being organised
  • Stick to regular times for routine tasks like mealtimes and bedtimes.
  • Create simple and time-saving systems for daily, weekly and monthly activities such as cooking and shopping.
  • Plan ahead for the busy morning times each evening by making lunches and packing bags.
  • Have a clear and quiet homework space for your children.
  • Make advance plans to reduce your responsibilities during unwell periods, and check out options for extra support during these times.
  • Write down family routines so anyone supporting you can keep things consistent.
Talking about mental health
  • Contact an anti stigma campaign such as Time to Change for advice on sharing information about your experience.
  • Think carefully about how much you want to say and to who.
  • Never feel you have to explain more than you feel comfortable with.
  • Remember – you can always add more information later, but it's hard to take something back once it's been shared.
Seeking help when you need it
  • Ask someone you trust to either find out about or go with you to a support service for the first time.
  • Make a list of all the questions that you'd like to ask the support service.
  • Reaching out for help can sometimes bring up very difficult fears about having children taken away. Remember that organisations will have supported lots of other parents before you, and their family support staff will be experienced in how best to help you manage your situation.

Let other people babysit, have your kid overnight, make their tea. Your kid won't mind and they'll love the extra attention. You aren't a bad parent for needing help.

This information was published in August 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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