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5 ways to be a healthier parent for healthier kids

The mental health of parents and children is connected in multiple ways. Parents who have their own mental health challenges, such as coping with symptoms of depression or anxiety may have more difficulty providing care for their child compared to parents who describe their mental health as good.

Caring for children can create challenges for parents, particularly if they lack resources and support, which can have a negative effect on a parent’s mental health. Parents and children may also experience shared risks, such as inherited genetics (as in the case with depression and anxiety) along with challenging environmental factors.

Healthy parenting mean healthier kids

Childhood mental health directly impacts how a child reaches their developmental milestones.  Specific to emotional health, these include things like learning social skills and the ability to cope or recover from setbacks. Mentally healthy children are more likely to have a positive quality of life and to function well at home, in school, and in extracurricular activities like sports and clubs.

Parents who struggle with mental health issues have kids who struggle too

A study published in 2021 found that 1 in 14 children has a caregiver with poor mental health. Researchers asked parents (or caregivers who had the role of parent) to report on their child’s mental and physical health as well as their own mental health.  Over 8% of kids had at least one parent that had symptoms of a brain health disorder and those children were more likely to have poor general health, to have a mental, emotional, or developmental disability, to have adverse childhood experiences such as exposure to violence or family disruptions including divorce, and to be living in poverty.

How can parents work towards being the best parent they can for their kids mental health?

  1. Prioritize what is important.

No parent is perfect, and often there are compromises that need to be made with all of the demands on parents today.  Your priority should be on what’s most important: your child’s well-being and their connection with you.

In other words, if your child is having a hard time at school this year, it may not be productive to nag them about their grades. Focus, instead, on their mental health and well-being. Young people perform better in school when they are mentally strong and poor grades can often be a clue that they are struggling with depression or anxiety.

  1. Cut yourself some slack.

No one can be the perfect parent…and that’s okay. When you are feeling guilty about picking up a pizza for dinner or forgetting to sign a permission slip, use that to demonstrate the concept of balance and readjust your thinking on setting unrealistic goals for yourself or your child.

  1. When things get stressful, take a break from social media.

When social media or other influences say you “should”, focus on the kind of parent you would like to be.  Don’t compare your family’s experience to anyone else’s, and don’t measure yourself parenting skills or style against anyone else.  Stopping the endless scroll of social media and news is not only healthier for you, it also sets a good example for your kids.

  1. Practice self-care.

Self-care does not mean a spa day or playing a round of golf. It can be something as simple as saying no to another commitment, taking the time to get to the gym on a regular basis, or finding other small opportunities to sustain yourself each day.  Don’t wait until your tank is empty to fill it up.

  1. Get medical help for yourself if you need it.

You know how the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on yourself first, before assisting your child…it’s the same concept with brain health and wellness.  For you to best help you child deal with the challenges of life, you need to be stable, strong, and clear-headed. For many, this means getting the medical care required for optimal brain health.

Parenting can be a tough job, but it is nearly impossible when you are not healthy. At Dr. Sambunaris & Associates we provide a variety of programs to make it convenient for parents to maximize their mental health and be the best version of themselves for their kids including telehealth and appointments in the early evening.

Angelo Sambunaris, M.D.

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