8 Self-Care Tips For Parents of Children with Mental Illness
Self-care is critical for parents raising children living with mental illness. As parents, we tend to put our child's needs ahead of our own. This doesn't work. I've put together a list of eight self-care tips for parents of children with mental illness.
Parent Self-Care Tip #1: Sleep and Parenting
Nothing is more important than sleep. Cumulative sleep deprivation negatively affects our judgement, decision-making and mood. When my son Bob was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I couldn't sleep. I was too worried to relax and let my mind and body rest. Naturally, this affected my ability to concentrate and focus. I called in sick for work because I knew my head wasn't where it needed to be to stay safe on the job.
Parent Self-Care Tip #2: Diet When Caring for a Mentally Ill Child
Food is the energy we need to fuel our bodies. When I am stressed, I don't eat. I lost so much weight when Bob was sick my skinny jeans were loose. To make matters worse, I was an irritable grouch because I was hungry. Conversely, my friend Karen put on over 100 pounds caring for her son with bipolar disorder. Then Karen felt depressed about her self-image, which further impaired her ability to support her mentally ill son.
Parent Self-Care Tip #3: Avoid Substances When Parenting a Child with a Mental Illness
Substance avoidance is essential for me when my son Bob is unstable. As a caregiver, I need to be at my best 24/7. As much as I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, it doesn't help me at 10:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night when my son suddenly takes off on his bicycle for his girlfriend's house and I have to go bring him back.
Parent Self-Care Tip #4: Exercise
Exercise is my favorite stress reliever. Exercise produces endorphins in the brain, which makes me happy. There is nothing like a good run to help me cope with my son Bob's latest mental health crisis. Further, exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, raise self-esteem and improve sleep.
Parent Self-Care Tip #5: Education about Mental Illness
Education about my son's mental illness has given me strength as a caregiver. The more I learn about bipolar disorder and social anxiety, the more I am able to be compassionate and empathetic about what Bob is experiencing. I encourage any parent raising a child with mental illness to learn as much as they can about their child's illness.
Parent Self-Care Tip #6: Parents of Mentally Ill Children Need Support
Support for parents of children with mental illness is vital. I found invaluable support from other parents raising children with mental illness online and through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Support makes me feel like I am not alone and provides comfort and wisdom from parents who have walked in my shoes.
Parenting Self-Care Tip #7: Respite
Parenting a child with mental illness without respite can be exhausting. Respite can take the form of any break that affords temporary relief from the distress of caregiving. I enjoy yoga or a quiet cup of coffee. Walking the dog, reading, visiting a friend or even grocery shopping solo can provide much needed respite.
Parenting Self-Care Tip #8: Professional Help with Parenting a Child with Mental Illness
Last but not least, it's okay to seek professional mental health assistance. When my son was at his worst, I was diagnosed and treated for adjustment disorder by my primary care physician. Clergy, counselors and therapists can also help parents deal with the unique challenges their children with mental illness present.
Following this self-care checklist can benefit parents raising children with mental illness. I learned these lessons on my own the hard way. They work for me and I hope they will work for you as you continue the difficult job of parenting a child with mental illness.
Halli, C. (2015, April 26). 8 Self-Care Tips For Parents of Children with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2015/04/8-self-care-tips-for-parents-of-children-with-mental-illness