The Most Powerful Ways Mental Health Affects Children
The Ripple Effect of Your Mental Health
The Negative Impacts
Let’s be real: parenting on a bad day can feel like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, blindfolded, in a tornado. When parents are overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed, it often trickles down to their children. Kids, with their built-in radar for emotional shifts, can sense when things are off. They might react by becoming anxious, mimicking your behaviors, or even acting out as a cry for attention.
For instance, consider “Sarah”, a single mother juggling work and parenting. When she’s stressed, she becomes short-tempered. Her son, noticing the change, becomes more clingy and anxious, fearing he’s the cause of her distress. When he gets clingy, Sarah feels like she’s shutting down because she’s so overwhelmed. She’s “touched out” and feels like she’s in sensory overload which makes her son want to cling to her even more! It’s a cycle many families find themselves in.
The Positive Impacts
Now, flip the script. Imagine parenting with a positive mindset. This doesn’t mean you’re a perma-smiling, never-flustered super-parent. It’s about approaching challenges with optimism and resilience. Children raised in such environments tend to mirror these attitudes. They’re more likely to handle their emotions constructively and face life’s hurdles with confidence.
Take “Mike” and “Linda”, for example. They’ve made a conscious effort to practice positive parenting. They openly discuss challenges with each other and their kids, and emphasize learning from mistakes. They take time to sit and connect as a family – having open discussions about their days. One day, Mike told his family that he screwed up at work on a project and set their team back a week. He mentioned how he recognized his mistake, spoke to his boss about it, and came up with a game plan to fix it. He also apologized to his team. Their children, observing this approach, learn to view setbacks as opportunities for growth. They also learned to own their mistakes, apologize, and grow from them.
The Power of Choice
As a parent, you’re used to giving your kids choices: chicken or fish; red shirt or yellow hoodie. But, you also have choices – snap back in anger or take a deep breath before you respond. You have a choice in your mindset. I know there are certain days where it feels like you’re playing a game of emotional whack-a-mole, but remember, you’re the role model. You set the example. Your reactions to stress, your coping mechanisms, and how you express emotions are all lessons for your little observers.
Remember when I said you’re the role model and you set the example? Well…children are like sponges, soaking up everything, including your reactions to daily stresses. If you handle stress by shouting, don’t be surprised if your little one becomes a mini-yell machine. On the other hand, if they see you taking deep breaths or discussing your feelings calmly, they’re more likely to adopt these healthier coping strategies. Ask yourself if the way you handle every day stressors and negative situations is the way you want your child to so for themselves.
Mindful Parenting in the Real World
There’s someone I know, let’s call her “Emma”. She’s got a busy life with a demanding job and 3 kids. When it feels like the world is going sideways, Emma practices mindfulness. She closes her eyes, takes a big and deep breath to connect herself to her surroundings. Emma considers what she’s hearing and feeling. She takes time to assess her emotions. Every so often, one of Emma’s kids catches her in the act and it becomes “normal’ for them to see their mom take a moment for mindfulness.
Emma didn’t teach her kids how to do this practice but they watched it happen over time. Recently, she told me how her “caught” her daughter doing this. Emma’s daughter is in elementary school and was overwhelmed and upset during an encounter with one of her brothers. Emma mentioned she saw her daughter take a deep breath, close her eyes, and emulate what Emma does. Rather than having a fit when she’s annoyed by one of her brothers, Emma’s daughter chose mindfulness even though she she wasn’t taught how to do this directly. Emma’s positive approach to handling stress is silently teaching her daughter a valuable life skill.
Seeking Professional Help
Parenting doesn’t come natuallly to everyone and sometimes we’re caught in situations that are stressful for long periods of time. It can build up and have an effect on how you parent. When you’re stuck in that mode, your kids feel it and it might be time to call a therapist for help.
There’s no shame in admitting that sometimes, parenting feels like trying to solve a complex puzzle with missing pieces. Seeking help, especially from a therapist, can be a game-changer. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s an act of strength. A therapist can offer strategies to manage stress, deal with emotional challenges, and guide you towards a healthier mental state.
Therapy, especially women’s therapy, can be particularly beneficial for new parents or those struggling with the demands of parenting. It provides a safe space to explore feelings, fears, and frustrations. Therapists can help you develop strategies to cultivate a more positive mindset, benefiting both you and your children.
Parenting without Losing Your Marbles
If you feel like you’re constantly in “fight” mode with your kids or your life, you might also wonder what you can do to stop the ride so you can get off of it. That’s reality in parenting but you have a choice to opt for a positive mindselt. Parenting with a positive mindset doesn’t mean you ignore the chaos. It means you acknowledge the mess and choose to laugh when the cereal gets spilled for the third time in a week. It’s about finding humor in the mayhem and joy in the journey.
Find the Humor
Sometimes parenting is funny. If your kid has ever come to you fuming about something and you’re in such disbelief that you find the whole situation funny…it’s OK to laugh (just don’t laugh at your child). At the same time, incorporating wit and humor in parenting can lighten the atmosphere and make challenging situations more manageable. For instance, when your teen’s room looks like a scene from a disaster movie, instead of yelling, try a witty remark like “I see we’re filming the next ‘Twister’ in here” and then walk away. It eases tension and often gets better cooperation.
Keeping It Real
Being realistic is key. Some days will be picture-perfect, while others will be survival mode. Accepting this reality helps in maintaining a balanced perspective. It’s okay to have ‘off’ days, acknowledge them and learn to bounce back.
The Parenting Journey
“The years are long but the days are short” is a quote that fits parenthood so perfectly! You blink and your child went from learning to walk to learning to function independently as an adult. Parenting is a journey filled with twists and turns, highs and lows. By adopting a positive mindset, you’re not only enhancing your mental health but also setting up your children for emotional success. Remember, your attitude and actions are powerful tools in shaping your children’s view of the world. So, embrace the chaos, laugh a little (or a lot), and know that in the grand parenting adventure, your positive mindset is the best gift you can give your children.
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