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Parents’ Mental Health & Wellbeing

Parent Mental Health Day 2023

Being a parent can be both rewarding and challenging, and often at the same time.

We get no handbook or recipe on how to go about being good parents or supporting the development of our children’s mental health and well-being. The first thing to think about and remind ourselves of is that, more often than not, we are doing our best to be good parents and that we are going to make mistakes along the way, we are not perfect!

When it comes to being a parent, one of the best things we can do is to get ourselves in a good place first and look after our emotional well-being. Not only will this help us deal with the challenges thrown at us, but it will also help us be good role models for our children.

What does getting ourselves in a good place mean?

When we get on a plane, we put our oxygen masks on first; if we do this, we are in a better position; to help others. How can we get ourselves into a good place? From the perspective of the Chimp Model, this involves understanding how the three key players (Human, Chimp and Computer) can either help us or hinder us, affecting whether we can be the best parents we can be.

In the model, the Human is who we are and how we want to go about things; the Chimp and the Computer are a machine that is part of us that can hijack us at any moment and without warning, with thoughts, feelings and behaviours we don’t want.

As a starting point, try reflecting and writing down how you would like to be as a parent;

 

  • Supportive
  • Encouraging
  • Caring
  • Understanding
  • Patient

Doing this can help to give us a good starting point to help us know what qualities we want to have and how our Chimp is hijacking us and stopping us. Consider what each of these qualities would look like in practice, and measure your success based on these qualities.

parent-skills

Starting to understand how to nurture your Chimp is the second step.

Are we looking after our Chimp? When we look after our Chimps, they are less likely to hijack us. A couple of ways to nurture our Chimps as parents are not to let them compare themselves with other parents. Constantly comparing ourselves to others will usually distress the Chimp, leading to us thinking; we are not as good as others and therefore are not good parents. Comparing how we are doing to our values and qualities is a way to silence the Chimp.

It can feel like most of the time – we are juggling many different things at once; if we try juggling too many things, this can cause the Chimp to become stressed and unable to cope. To deal with this, see if you can develop ways of focusing on only one thing at a time before moving on to the next thing, even if this is just for a few minutes.

Finally, we come to the computer, which can significantly impact how we see ourselves as parents, how we go about being a parent on a day-to-day basis, and how much the Chimp might hijack us. The computer stores beliefs, which can be either helpful or unhelpful. These beliefs can link to the expectations of how we should be as a parent, expectations of others of how we should be as a parent or the expectations of how parenting should go. The clue to these expectations is the word ‘should’; “I should be able to deal with everything thrown at me as a parent”, “others think I should be a perfect parent”, and “things should go smoothly”. Unless we identify our unhelpful beliefs in the computer and change them, we will keep having the same thoughts and feelings we don’t want.

A suggestion we would give would be to see if you can identify any unhelpful beliefs you might have. Once you have these, you can replace them with helpful autopilots that will help manage your Chimp and stop it in its tracks.

  • I can only do my best to deal with what I see as a parent.
  • It is ok to ask for help.
  • I know how I want to be as a parent.
  • There is no right or wrong way.
  • I will deal with things not going smoothly when and if they happen and not before.

To establish these new beliefs, you will have to keep repeating and reminding yourself so that after a period of doing this consistently, they will help manage your Chimp.

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As a development challenge, why not choose one activity for the next three months and then work on this consistently and see what difference it makes in getting you into a good place?

Remember, If we get ourselves in a good place, we can better help and support our children.

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