Parents and guardians have such an important role in supporting the mental health of young people. Young people who are isolating at home are interacting with their parents more than ever. So, how can you support as a parent or guardian when you may be feeling overwhelmed yourself?
First of all, we really encourage parents to look after themselves. Looking after your mental health as a parent is not a luxury, it is essential. Taking notice of how we feel as parents and trying to understand each person’s coping style can help reduce conflict and increase kindness in the home. Coping styles in families can vary from person to person. For example, some people may value keeping themselves really busy, while other people might prefer to spend time on their own. There is no right or wrong way. However, there can be conflict when coping styles differ. It’s important to tune into what your young person may need in order to balance expectations.
Is routine helpful? Life has changed so much. It may not be realistic to keep things exactly as they were. Let go of the pressure to do it all and prioritise ‘What are the key things we need throughout the day as a family?’ Physical activity may be important to consider as we know this can help with cabin fever and improve our mood.
It is also important to talk to young people about what is going on. Can you have a ‘check in’ time during the day to see how people are doing? Saying things such as ‘How are you getting on or what have you been up to?’ rather than telling them what to do can be a helpful way of showing the young person you are interested. Do not underestimate the value of your role. Young people want to be close, they just do not want to be controlled.
If you are struggling, there is support available. Our website www.JigsawOnline.ie has more information. Our Jigsaw support line is up and running on Freephone 1800 JIGSAW (544 729). It will provide free mental health support and advice to young people aged 12 to 25 years old, and parents or concerned adults operating Monday to Friday, 1pm- 5pm. You can also text 086 180 3880 “call me” with your preferred day and time for a call within working hours or email email@example.com anytime. Clinicians will respond between 9am to 5pm.
It’s not easy and we are all going to struggle with it from time to time. If we can support and listen to each other as best we can, this is what will get us through.
This article was contributed by Aisling O’Neill, Occupational Therapist with Jigsaw Limerick, and a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.