Many parents bring their children to me with anxiety, ADHD, depression or behavior concerns. During the first session we have the parent intake where the parent lets me know what their concerns are for their child and often share their own struggles with their own mental health. Many parents who come in with concerns for their child’s anxiety, struggle with their own anxiety.
The first thing I ask when parents disclose their personal concerns is whether they have a counselor of their own to talk to. If a parent is exhibiting signs of anxiety and their child is working with me on their anxiety, the parents may inadvertently cause more anxiety for their child.
Self-care for parents is high priority. Oftentimes, parents are concerned about their child but forget to take care of them selves in the business of day-to-day life. As a Mom to four teenagers, I truly understand how hard it can be to take time for ones self or even to prioritize ones self.
Unfortunately, when parents struggle, the entire family struggles. Parents are the glue that holds their family together. Anxiety makes it difficult to focus on others needs and to be able to plan, organize and juggle the chaos. Add in the additional stress of a child or children who are struggling with their own mental health wellness and how is a parent supposed to get through the day?
So, all of that being taken in to consideration, what is a stressed-out parent supposed to do for his or her own self-care?
Let’s start with the obvious but one that most grown-ups don’t want to hear: get off the devices at night for some healthier down time, fit in exercise and a reasonable bedtime as well as say no to things that stress you out and are not necessary.
I realize most adults are aware of these ways to reduce stress but so few actually do these things.
But what other things can we do to reduce stress and anxiety in the tiny amount of time we have left for ourselves?
Here are a few ideas:
1-Sing along to the music in the car on your commute, instead of talking on the phone
2-Exercise by having a 10-minute dance party with the kids while dinner is cooking
3-Have a fun family game night instead of cell phones, tablets and tv’s for quality down time
4-Schedule time for yourself everyday, make it an appointment for self-care
5-Ask your child’s counselor for a referral to a counselor for yourself
6-Send the kids to a sleepover at the home of a trusted family member (who understands your child’s wellness needs) and enjoy a “staycation”.
7-When you get a pedicure, pay a bit extra for the full leg and foot massage or trade off giving massages with your significant other.
8-Sunday night, sit down with the family and go over the weeks meals, activities, school projects, etc. so everyone is on the same page and is responsible for their own concerns. This will take some responsibilities off your shoulders.
9-Carve out time to be in nature. On a bad weather day try enjoying mini gardening with indoor plants, add little table top fountains, or play nature sound videos right off of Youtube. I especially like the live waterfall videos.
10-Declutter your space because a calm, peaceful living space helps us feel calm and peaceful.
It can feel overwhelming to even begin with self-care when your child is struggling and you are struggling as well. The first steps are seeing your own physician to make sure you are not having any health concerns that may be causing your anxiety.
Also, asking your child’s counselor for ways to help yourself and your child to make your home calmer and lower the family’s stress will help with some extra tools and coping skills.