Parents and guardians have an important role in supporting the mental health of young people. While isolating at home, young people are interacting with their parents more than ever. So how can we parents offer support when we may be feeling overwhelmed ourselves?
Start by looking after you. Taking care of your own mental health is not a luxury – it is essential. Keep in mind that people cope with challenges in different ways. Some like keeping themselves really busy. Others prefer spending time on their own. There is no right or wrong way to deal with difficulties–but coping styles can clash if they are too different. Try tuning into the unique needs of your young person. This may help balance expectations, reduce conflict, and increase kindness in the home.
What about routines? Life has changed so much. Expecting to keep up with your old routine may be unrealistic. Let go of the pressure to do it all. Prioritise the key things your family needs to get through the day. Physical activity may be important, as it helps reduce with cabin fever and improves our mood.
Talk to young people about what is going on. Try having a ‘check in’ time during the day to see how they are doing. Rather than telling them what to do, try asking questions like, “How are you getting on?” “What have you been up to?” This is a helpful way of showing you are interested. Young people want to be close, they just do not want to be controlled. Do not underestimate the value of your role.
If you are struggling, we are here to help. For more information on supports, take a look at our website, www.JigsawOnline.ie Our Jigsaw support line is up and running Monday to Friday, 1pm- 5pm, on Freephone 1800 JIGSAW (544 729). It provides free mental health support and advice to young people aged 12 to 25 years old, and parents or concerned adults. You can also text 086 180 3880 “call me” with your preferred day and time for a call within working hours or email firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. Clinicians will respond between 9am to 5pm.
It’s not easy. We are all likely to struggle from time to time. If we can support and listen to each other as best we can, we will get through it!
- There is so much we cannot control, but there are things we can choose. What can you bring to your day to make time for you? What can you choose to bring to the space between you and your young person?
- Sometimes young people may show their distress through lashing out or having a ‘melt down’. Try and tune into this before reacting – which is easier said than done! Ask yourself ‘Is the young person trying to say something to me?’ This can help us become more understanding.
- Remember to give space. Are there creative ways you can use the home such as having a cup of tea outside or setting up your work station in the hallway?
- Acknowledge that there may be a lot of feelings for young people such as anger, loss and fear. Young people are very conscious about not wanting to add to the stress of parents. Can you give some time in the day to talk about this in a safe way?
- Can you help young people to connect with their friends? It may mean loosening the boundaries on screen time as friends are an important protective factor for young people.
- Let go of the expectation to be the ‘perfect parent’. This does not exist.
- Focus on getting through each day. Self-compassion may be reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can in a really challenging time.
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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.