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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.

How might my mental health problem affect me?

Many people worry that it will be difficult to cope with parenting if they have a mental health problem. It is natural to be concerned about the impact this will have on you and your children.

With the right support and resources though, it is perfectly possible to be a good parent while managing a mental health problem, and to care for and support your children in a positive way.

All parents face challenges, but if you are coping with a mental health problem, you may face additional concerns or difficulties. For example:

Parenting with a mental health problem

Watch Nick, Darren and Kate discuss what it's like being a parent with a mental health problem, and share their tips on coping.

Coping with the everyday challenges of parenting

A mental health problem can make the day-to-day challenges of parenting feel harder. For example, anxiety may make you more easily worried, or depression may mean that you have low energy.

The impact of your mental health on your children

You may worry about how your mental health affects your child; for example, whether they may experience stress or mental health problems themselves.

Dealing with other people's negative ideas about mental health problems

You or your child may have difficulties because of other people's assumptions or judgements about mental health. For example, people may judge your parenting abilities because you have a mental health problem, or your child may be bullied or teased.

For more information on dealing with assumptions people might have, see our page on stigma and misconceptions.

"It feels like you are on the outside of your family looking in. You so desperately want to feel part of it but can't find a way to."

Asking your children for extra help around the home

If your child has to take on responsibilities around the home to help you, such as preparing food or getting younger siblings ready for school, this may have an impact on their school work or the amount of free time they have to play or see their friends.

Feeling safe to ask for help

You may find it hard to seek help because you are worried that people may see you as a less capable parent, and you may put pressure on yourself to cope for longer than you are able.

Managing in a crisis

There may be times when you become unwell and can't carry out your usual parenting responsibilities, or have to go into hospital. This can cause practical issues, and stress and worry for you and your family.

No parent is 'perfect' - it's OK to struggle

It can be easy to blame any difficulties you have as a parent on your mental health problems, or to over-compensate by trying to be a 'perfect parent'. It's important to remember though that all parents have difficult times and there is no such thing as being perfect.

Try not to put too much pressure on yourself or give yourself too much of a hard time. Remember that you have general skills as a parent – regardless of any mental health issues – that will remain useful.

"Most illnesses don't have society making you feel guilty about raising a child while sick. Mental health conditions, though, make the guilt huge – it's as if others think you have a choice in it."

This information was published in April 2019. We will revise it in 2022.

References and bibliography available on request.

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