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How to parent during a mental health crisis

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The pressures of modern life are huge for families and parents and for most parents, life is a continual balancing act between meeting the demands of a busy life and ensuring the wellbeing of themselves and their children. This in itself is enough, but when life throws extra challenges at you in the form of a bereavement, illness or debt things can start to feel overwhelming.

Family Crisis

It is really hard to know what comes first, emotional overwhelm or crisis in the family. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what causes what, instead it is important to realise that each affects the other and to do whatever is possible that will help the situation. If you are in this place or know that this is a familiar situation that comes around for your family it is important to move out of guilt and blame and instead identify helpful ways of dealing with the situation.

Ask for help

Asking for help is a big and important step – simply talking things over can be immensely helpful as it gets some of the overwhelming feelings and information out of your head. Choose someone that you trust and who is able to hear what you are saying without giving you unwanted advice. The answers to your problems may not be immediately apparent and may take time to become clear, especially if you are feeling mentally unwell at the moment.

Break down problems into smaller chunks

If you are worried about lots of different things it is important to find a way of separating them out so that they do not all become one huge worry. Write everything down, no matter how small and note down any possible solutions or things that will help each individual situation. Think about who or what might be able to support you with each one.

Tackle each problem

Next, either alone or with a friend, make a list of what you need to do. Write it in order of priority by deciding which ones are more urgent or important than the others and make a decision to leave the less important ones until later when you have more resources available to you. Then focus on ways in which you can accomplish those points left on your list. When you think about this keep it simple, for example a priority may be to cook meals for your family so consider what will make this task more easy. Would it help to use more tinned or frozen food? Would it help to make a huge meal that you can freeze and eat from for a few days? For housework, is there someone that you could either pay for a couple of hours each week or ask as a favour occasionally?

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De-construct your day

Break your days into more manageable chunks of morning, afternoon and evening and write down essential activities such as meals or bathing your children. Put a couple of the urgent tasks during times of the day when you think you will be at your best. Each day, make time for yourself and time for just you and your children. Prioritise having a bath, listening to some music or spending time with a friend and remind yourself that this is you filling yourself up again. With your kids, make sure that you spend a little quality time either as eating together or cuddling up for a film or a story.

Build a support structure

Commit to building up your support system, both of friends and family and also professional help such a family groups, drop in or support phone lines. Remember, you’re not alone and many parents are facing exactly the same obstacles as you.




About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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