Raising Children While You Have a Mental Illness

In today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, raising children is harder than ever. Ensuring their safety and well-being, nurturing their developmental needs and maintaining a genuine bond with one’s children requires lots of energy, time and patience. On top of all this, parents must make it a point to fulfill their own personal needs in terms of their physical and mental health, personal relationships and planning for the future.

For parents struggling with mental health problems, trying to meet the children’s needs as well as their own personal needs requires an especially concentrated effort. Mental conditions most common among parents include depression and anxiety-based disorders, both of which can disrupt a person’s ability to parent effectively.

While difficult to say the least, raising children while you have a mental illness can be done. With the proper supports and planning in place, you can work through the challenges that come with mental illness while at the same time ensuring your children receive the love and care they need.

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Challenges

mental illness

Parenting while you have a mental illness can seem difficult, but you can do it!

Childhood and adolescence both represent critical formative years in children’s lives. During this time, children develop the essential skills needed to function effectively as adults. Parents play a crucial role in shaping their overall development as individuals.

A parent struggling with mental illness faces any number of challenges in terms of how the illness affects their ability to parent. Mental illness can take a toll on a person’s ability to cope with daily life in general, let alone care for children.

A psychological disorder can interfere with a person’s ability to sleep restfully. Low energy levels, difficulty concentrating and moodiness can also disrupt one’s ability to deal with situations throughout the day.

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, children of mentally ill parents face a higher risk of developing mental health problems as adults. In effect, the worse the parent’s mental illness is the higher the risk for the child. For these reasons, it’s essential parents take the necessary steps towards getting the help they need while providing for the children’s overall safety and well-being along the way.

Effects on the Children

More than anything else, children require a stable, consistent home environment to develop into well-adjusted adults. Herein lies much of the difficulty parents with mental illness encounter in terms of managing the symptoms of their illness and maintaining order in the household.

Children of parents who struggle with mental illness often don’t receive the needed levels of interaction to create a safe, loving atmosphere in the home. As a result, children end up feeling alone and confused with many blaming themselves for the problems in the home.

According to the University of Wisconsin, these conditions hamper a child’s psychosocial development in terms of his or her ability to relate and interact with others in health ways. In turn, these children tend to fall behind in language development, making it difficult for them to keep up with peers in important areas, such as socialization skills and coping behaviors.

Tips for Raising Children While You Have a Mental Illness

Get Needed Treatment

Overall, a child’s level of functioning will mirror the parent’s level of functioning so getting needed treatment help not only improves your quality life, but also that of your children. Regardless of the type of psychological disorder involved, mental illness operates on three levels:

  • Brain chemical imbalances
  • Faulty thinking patterns and emotional responses
  • Dysfunctional behavior patterns

For people suffering from severe forms of depression and/or anxiety, medication treatment can help restore brain chemical levels back to normal and offer considerable relief from distressing symptoms. Behavioral treatment in the form of individual and group psychotherapy works well at undoing faulty thinking patterns while at the same time helping to develop healthy coping strategies for dealing life’s daily stressors. Call 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) toll free for help finding treatment.

Build a Support System

The stigma associated with mental illness makes it especially difficult for those affected to garner the support needed to cope during difficult times, let alone manage a household on a day-to-day basis. Support systems play an important role in the life of a parent, regardless of whether mental illness is an issue or not.

For parents living with mental illness, building a solid support system can help relieve much of the pressure associated with parenting. Just having someone to talk to during difficult times or having someone to leave the kids with when feeling overwhelmed prevents stress levels from reaching the point of no return.

A support system may include:

Planning

Part of the behavioral treatment process entails identifying the cues that aggravate the symptoms of your illness. While symptom management remains the overall goal of treatment, sometimes life gets to be too much. For these reasons, it’s important to plan for times when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Setting up arrangements with other parents in your support system to watch the children while you take some time to regroup can help in maintaining a stable living environment. Likewise, taking the time to develop a plan that includes people to call and healthy activities or places to go takes the guesswork out of knowing what to do when stress levels run high.

Support Groups for the Children

Just like any other household, it’s important for children to engage in healthy outlets and extracurricular activities as a part of their overall development and emotional well-being. Considering the potential effects of mental illness in their lives, enrolling children in a support group provides them with a setting where they can express their feelings and thoughts on the issue. Support groups can also help children gain a better understanding of mental illness, which enables them to maintain and nurture their sense of self and identity.

Call 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) toll free for help finding treatment anytime.

Considerations

According to the University of California Berkeley, an estimated 90 percent of substance abusers struggle with some form of anxiety or depression disorder. This means, parents dealing with mental health issues face a high risk of developing substance abuse problems on top of mental illness.

Raising children under these conditions becomes all but unbearable as substance abuse only works to aggravate the symptoms of mental illness. Under these conditions, it becomes all the more critical for parents struggling with mental health problems to seek out needed treatment help.

Resources

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