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No bond is closer than between a parent and their child. The biological and psychological ties that bind parents and their children are foundational to the latter’s development. But despite the highlights we see on social media, parenthood isn’t easy. Furthermore, children are sensitive receptors of parental distress – which may stem from factors like social isolation, financial hardship, divorce, or mental illness. Therefore, when a parent struggles, the child picks up on these stressors and absorbs them in ways that may later manifest in their lives. Today, we’re looking further into how parents affect their child’s mental health and tips that can help them to parent.
How Parents Affect Their Child’s Mental Health
Mental health and parenting go hand in hand. As a mother or father, what impacts you will impact your children in some way. Sadly, many children today are in the care of a parent who, at some point in their lives, experienced or will experience some degree of mental illness. This could be mild, such as intermittent depression or anxiety, or more severe, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
What’s more, the number of households with a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol is rising, which is also proven to negatively impact children. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, parental mental illness increases a child’s risk of developing a mental health disorder, and when both parents are mentally ill, the risk is even higher.1
A child is also more likely to develop a mental illness when a parent has one or more of the following: bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, alcoholism, drug use disorder, or depression.1 In addition to the impact of parental mental health on a child, an unstable and unpredictable family environment can also contribute to psychiatric illness in children.
The mental illness of a parent can strain their marriage or relationship with their parent, affecting the parenting abilities of the couple. In turn, this can severely impact the child’s development.
How Can Parents Support Their Child's Mental Health?
Children are most vulnerable both physically and mentally from ages newborn to 5, which is a fragile period for brain development. Adolescence is the next big chapter of a child’s life. Because brain development is rapid and ever-changing during these two critical points, children are most vulnerable to the impact of parental mental illness.
Fortunately, there are ways that parents can support their child’s mental health:
Explaining to children that the parent’s mental illness is not their fault
Receiving help and support from family members
A stable home environment
Psychotherapy for the child and the parent(s)
Receiving love and attention from the parent
Inner strength and good coping skills in the child
A strong relationship with a healthy adult
Friendships and positive peer relationships
Interest in and success at school
Healthy interests outside the home for the child
Help from outside the family to improve the family environment (such as parenting classes or individual therapy)
Individual and family therapy can guide a child toward healthy development, despite the presence of parental mental illness. Our mental health therapists at Banyan work with the parent(s) and children individually and together to inspire positive elements in the home and the natural strengths of the child.
Everything we do as parents is reflected in our children, so looking out for yourself is equivalent to looking out for your kids. If you’re searching for mental health care, our residential mental health program in Boca can help.
Tips for Parenting With Mental Illness
As a parent, even the smallest and seemingly insignificant things can have a huge impact on your child’s life. When it comes to their mental health, you can never be too careful or specific. Below are some tips for parenting with a mental illness that can help you be there for your children:
Set aside time every day to play with them or do something they enjoy
Always tell them you love them
Show your support, even for the little things
If you’re married or have a partner, work on your relationship
Practice self-care (you have to take care of yourself so you can take care of others)
Keep a steady job
Stay on top of your finances (if you need help, seek out a financial advisor)
While there are numerous parenting tips out there, the best thing you can do for your child is to love them and be there for them no matter what. If you need help coping with a mental illness and want to improve your life, look no further. Banyan Mental Health offers mental illness treatment in Boca for conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others.
Call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our services and how we can help you and your family.