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Parenting With A Mental Health Disorder

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 9/7/2022

Parenting with a mental illness can bring its own set of challenges. If you’re a parent, you know family life can be stressful and exhausting at times, which can exacerbate a mental health condition. 

And whether you deal with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, your psychological wellbeing can have an impact on the happiness of your child. 

For these reasons, staying on top of treating and coping with a mental health disorder is of the utmost importance when you are a parent. 

Parenting with a Mental Health Disorder

If you are parenting with a mental illness, you are not alone. In a survey conducted between 2008 and 2014, about 18 percent of parents reported experiencing mental illness in the last year. 

Unfortunately, if your mental health is not in good shape, it can affect your child. There is research that suggests that children of parents or caregivers who reported having poor mental health were more likely to have poor overall health or deal with mental or emotional disorders.

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How to Parent With Mental Health Concerns

Since kids with parents who have mental health issues can be negatively impacted, it’s important to do what you can to mitigate the impact of your condition on your child. 

Taking care of yourself and utilizing mental health services is crucial. In addition, you can do things that help protect your child, including

  • Be kind to yourself: If you are beating yourself up because you feel guilty about being a parent with mental health challenges, you may be wasting precious emotional resources that could go to your child (or children). Remember that no one is a perfect parent all of the time.

  • Focus on structure: Your psychological state may feel out of control, but try to create as much structure as possible for your kids. Without it, kids may feel heightened anxiety.

  • Be honest: Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. If you try to hide your condition, it may backfire and make them feel even more uncertain or anxious. While maintaining age-appropriate boundaries, open up to them and reassure them that all will be okay.

  • Get your kid help: Therapy can help kids process emotions that they may feel — without having to worry that they’ll hurt your feelings.

  • Embrace play: Kids should play. But if they live with someone with mental illness, they may feel they need to act more adult-like. You can help with this by encouraging lots of fun kid activities.

Seeking Treatment for a Mental Illness

Depressive disorders — like major depression or bipolar disorder — and anxiety are some of the more common mental health conditions that parents may deal with. If you are dealing with these or any other psychological distress, it’s important to seek out treatment so that you can fully be there for your child and keep your bond strong.

Two common treatments for anxious or depressed parents are therapy and medication. These treatments can be used for a variety of other conditions as well. 

Try Talk Therapy

Talk therapy can be a helpful way to address depressive symptoms and other emotional struggles. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the more popular and effective forms of talk therapy. When you engage in CBT, you work with a mental health professional to look closely at  behaviors that don’t serve you or your emotional state. From there, you’ll figure out ways to change those behaviors.

Look Into Medication

Often used alongside therapy, anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may be helpful for parents with depression or anxiety. 

There are a number of medications available and it’s best to speak with a healthcare provider about what could be the right fit for you. Some of the medications prescribed for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),beta-blockers and benzodiazepines.

When it comes to antidepressants, there are a few types. They include SSRIs, serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

All of these medications require a prescription. If you’d like to consider taking medication for depression or anxiety, Hers offers online mental health consultations.

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Navigating Mental Health Issues as a Parent

Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression among parents are relatively common. And just like you’d want to deal with a physical health issue, it’s important to deal with emotional health issues, because they can affect the health and happiness of your children. 

If you are navigating parental depression or another condition, make sure you are kind to yourself — beating yourself up won’t help anyone. It’s also key to make sure you are upfront with your kids and create structure for them. 

From there, you may want to consider medication or therapy — or both — to help you manage what’s going on and enable you to be the best parent possible. 

If you’d like to discuss any of this with a health care provider, schedule an online mental health consultation or check our our mental health services now.

7 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Stambaugh, L., Forman-Hoffman, V., Williams, J., et al., (2017). Prevalence of serious mental illness among parents in the United States: results from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 2008–2014.Annals of Epidemiology. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1047279716305208
  2. Mental Health of Children and Parents—a Strong Connection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/mental-health-children-and-parents.html
  3. When a Parent Has Mental Illness, How to Support Kids. Boston Children’s Hospital. Retrieved from https://answers.childrenshospital.org/parent-mental-illness/
  4. What Impact Does Parental Mental Health Have on Children? Regis College. Retrieved from https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/parental-mental-health/
  5. What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
  6. Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/
  7. What Meds Treat Depression? Mental Health America. Retrieved from https://screening.mhanational.org/content/what-meds-treat-depression/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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