It’s difficult to address your own health needs when you’re a parent. All of your attention is on your child and making sure they’re healthy and happy at all times. And as long as they’re OK, you’re OK!
However, whilst you may be physically just fine, parenting without ever taking time for yourself can cause a problem for your mental health. You can feel tired and irritable, and it can feel like you’re thinking in a cloud of fog. And these symptoms tend to get worse the longer you go on without tackling them.
And in ignoring your own mental health needs, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You deserve to have a break every now and then, to shake off some stress and take some much needed time for self-care activities!
But it can be hard to arrange time like that when you’re a full-time parent; where can you go, what you can do, who’s going to look after the kids, etc., are all questions that can flood your mind at the prospect.
( Photo Credit: Today's Parents )
Mental Health and Parenting
Guilt can quite often stop us from doing what we really need to do. We feel bad about making certain decisions, so we put them off and try to ignore them. And as a parent who needs to take a little break for their mental health, you can end up feeling like the worst person in the world.
After all, you might ask yourself some uncomfortable questions, such as, ‘Why do I need this break?’ and ‘Do I really need to take a break from my child?’ In doing so, you can convince yourself that you don’t need some time at all, and you can feel similarly bad about that decision too. You really can’t win!
And if you’re a parent with a diagnosed mental health issue, you know just how hard it can be to want to do the best for your child, but feeling like you’re unable to due to your own thoughts and feelings. You know it can be difficult to cope when juggling caring for your child whilst also ensuring you’re feeling well in yourself. You know best of all how hard it can be to balance everything you need to take care of.
But taking a break for your own sake doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a responsible person who has just proven they know best! So, when approaching the idea of a mental health break, there are quite a few things you can do to make it part of your normal routine.
Talk To Your Child About Your Needs
It’s important to always talk to your child when you’re planning to take a mental health break. They need to know that you’re still there for them and that you still love them, but you need to have a few hours to yourself. And this can be a hard concept for young children to understand, but it’s an important one to explain. It’ll ensure that any chats around mental health in the future can be approached in an understanding, ‘grown up’ way.
But how do you start this conversation? By relating your mental health to their physical health. For example, scary thoughts can make your heartbeat fast, just like a game in the garden does. Similarly, remind them of how tired they can feel at the end of the day, and tell them that that’s how you feel all the time.
Let them know that nothing is their fault, as kids can often wonder if something they’ve done is the cause of a ‘problem’, as they see it. Instead, tell them that looking after mental health is a big part of life and that thoughts and feelings need taking care of just like a cut or a bruise does.
( Photo Credit : Queensland Health )
Know The Support Available To You
There’s a lot of support for parents out there these days. If you think you’re alone in taking on the world, it’s important for us to tell you right now that you’re not! You have people who want to help!
Talk to your friends and family first; they know you, and they’ll have seen the way you’ve had troubles in recent months. They’ll be able to sympathise better than anyone else, and they can say and/or do a lot to help you focus on your mental health. Even if they just come around for half an hour in the evening to cook dinner, so that you can fit a small nap in, they’ll be able to help in very practical ways.
You have the opportunity to talk to a counsellor about your needs as well. A trained professional who specialises in helping parents with their mental health will know everything you need to do to set up a mental health break. They’ll be able to tell you the steps to go through, and who to talk to, as well as ensure you get what you need out of such a break.
The Potential Challenge in Arranging Childcare
Of course, this can be the trickiest part of all. If you’re taking a day away, and you’ll be on your own with no kids around, who’s going to stay at home to look after them? If you’ve got Grandparents who don’t mind babysitting or a friend who can do a couple of hours after work, it can be quite simple to arrange a time for yourself. But if you don’t have these options available, what can you do?
Money is always a big worry when you have no access to free childcare. If you have no family support, or your friends are unavailable, it can become impossible to do something without your children. Thankfully, you still have a few options to look into:
Checking your child into a preschool can be a great way to both enrich their life and ensure you have plenty of time to go about your own. Every preschool in the UK allows parents to check their children in for 15 hours of free childcare per week, depending on the age of their child.
For more information about this, you can read our guide to funding in early years right here. You can also use the official government website to help find an accredited childminder, as well as get advice on applying for financial support to pay for them. In the same mind, you can also turn to charity aid for both advice and support, with many online mental health charities offering chat lines to talk about your needs.
Be sure to thoroughly check out these links if you’re in a tight spot with your budget, as they’ll make the pressure in finding any future childcare a lot easier on your bank account.
Go on and take your mental health break!
You’re perfectly allowed to, and it’ll be a great way to stop mental health pressures from piling up in the future as well. Remember: addressing your own needs is a big part of being the parent you want to be.