Minding your Mental Health so you can mind your Child’s

How a parent’s mental health could impact on your child

What can you do as a parent to support your child?

If you support yourself this can lead to your child being and feeling supported. Being a parent can feel very challenging, lonely, confusing, frustrating, basically too much at times. If you struggle in yourself in anyway and then add a child to the mix you can start to feel very overwhelmed. Usually when you are struggling with self-acceptance and self-love you do what supports you less, you tend to isolate, push people away, hide your feelings and loose contact with friends and family. You may have a strong inner voice that says – YOU ARE NOT LOVABLE, NO BODY CARES HOW MUCH YOU ARE STRUGGLING, NO BODY CARES HOW YOU REALLY ARE, HOW DO YOU THINK YOU COULD BE A GOOD MUM, YOU ARE A DISGRACE AND YOU DISGUST ME, YOU ARE A TERRIBLE TERRIBLE MOTHER ETC. YOU ARE A USELESS FATHER ETC. Your thoughts can get distorted and you even feel paranoid at times. These are usually the times when you tend to act out negatively on your child both physically and verbally. The voice can go on and on. This Voice can feel very relentless. This voice does not support you nor does it support your child. On my own journey as a mother what motivates me most is the fact that if I support myself my children feel somewhat supported, safe and seen.

Parents are the centre of a child’s universe. They need you – they need you well enough for their – emotional development, spiritual development, intellectual development and physical development. You are the adult. You have chosen to have them.  You need to use your adult brain and your adult hearts to put as many resources in place as you possibly can so that you can parent in a good enough way. When you fly, the cabin manager always says over the loud speaker – ‘In the case of an emergency before you help children and other passengers please put on your own oxygen mask first’ If as a parent you started fumbling to put on your child’s masks first, while having no oxygen yourself, you would be doing something crazy – you could possibly die and so could your child. If you choose to put on your own mask then you have a better chance of putting on your child’s and you would both receive valuable oxygen. This oxygen could keep you both alive. In a way, this is a metaphor for parenting. Struggling with non-acceptance of self can feel so harrowing.  What you want to do most is to recoil and build up walls around you, and keep people out including your own child at times. This doesn’t help him in anyway. This doesn’t help you in anyway. What you are modelling for him is – I am unlovable, I don’t matter, I have no sense of value, life is about suffering. The child is breathing this in– they in turn believe that I am unlovable, I don’t matter, my feelings don’t matter and life is all about suffering!

Sometimes I have to ‘fake it till I make it’ as a mother.  My inner negative voice can be so strong that I don’t actually believe I am worth fighting for. And thankfully I also have this other inner positive voice that is sound and steady and always very much there that says ‘you have to do this, you need to do this and you owe it to your children. You are their world’

So yes it is hard.

Yes it takes time.

Yes it takes commitment.

Yes it takes discipline.

Yes it takes humility.

Yes it takes uncertainty.

Yes there may be tears.

Yes it takes 1 step forward 10 steps back at times.

Yes it can feel scary practicing new behaviours.

And YES you are worth it and your child is worth it too!

It may be even hard for you reading this article. And yet you have chosen to come to this website loveparenting.ie and that to me gives me hope for you.

You are reaching out.

I applaud you for that.

I thank you on behalf of your child.

 What can you do as a parent (who struggles from time to time) to support your child?

You can take little steps to let people into your world. In Limerick there are many resources for people needing support as new parents or existing parents. Many of which you will see available to you on this website you are currently on. Find a support group like Grow or Aware.  Go to One to One therapy – which I strongly recommend if you feel very collapsed in yourself – You can choose to go to mother and toddler groups, go to the local library, go to the park – in doing that both you and your children will be getting much needed Vitamin D and fresh Air. Maybe you feel overwhelmed going on your own so maybe you could risk asking someone to go with you?  Have something in your life that is not about being a mother or father.  – it could be singing in a choir, going for a walk while your child is at school, it could be baking. You all have something that makes your heart sing. Sometimes you have forgotten what it is and it has felt so long ago when you actually did stuff for you. Who ever said you have to stop your hobbies because you have become a Mum or a Dad?  Your child will love to see you ‘Shine’ in your hobby and he tends to feel so proud of you. My daughter loves to see me head off to my dancing class on a Thursday evening. Again you could ‘fake it till you make it’ and before you know it you might actually be enjoying baking like you did all those years ago. What you love is unique to you!  It is so wonderful that you are all so different. Wouldn’t the world be SO boring if you were all the same!! There is no one answer – some people absolutely love gardening. Some people love tennis or knitting or listening to music. Me – I love to sing and I love to dance J Nowadays you can be a little bit distracted in telling yourself that enjoyment has to cost money. Of course you need to have your basic needs taken care of but after that what really supports you to laugh and feel good are things that  cost very little.

I ask you to take some time to reflect on what you used to enjoy before you became a parent or before you started this inner suffering.

Something that I am completely passionate about and really believe in is Mindfulness. It could be sitting meditating for 10 minutes to 30 minutes per day. There are some really good Smart Phone Apps.  for example Headspace.com It could be listening to a ‘Loving Kindness Meditation’ on youtube.com It could be mindfully doing the washing up for 15 minutes and noticing your breath. The key is to discipline yourself to practicing wellness. There are online courses, there are city centre courses.  Just do a search for Meditation in Limerick City. Please if you are really struggling in allowing wellness into your life ‘fake it till you make it’ and see a therapist, go to a support group, tell a friend. You have huge capacity to change as Mothers and Fathers. I encourage you to be humble enough to put your 2 hands up and say ‘Hey I need some help and guidance here’ I’m wishing you well on your parenting journey. You and your child are definitely worth the effort. I hope you can do it.

This Article was provided by Harriet Mc Guigan. Harriet Mc Guigan is a practising psychotherapist with MyMind and works out of 69 O’Connell Street, Limerick. You can find out more about Harriet and her work on www.mymind.org You can contact her via telephone 086- 2685916

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  • Maria
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    Great article! Such a great eye opener!

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