Parenting Through Isolation – 7 Tips for When You're Struggling Too

Sometimes mental illness can make it difficult to be the parents that we want to be. It can feel impossible to be emotionally available to provide comfort for our kids – especially if there is no one there to support and comfort us.

At this time there are a great number of unknowns, and this is a stress that is impacting most people in the community to some degree. Now that kids are learning from home, things can feel overwhelming. Keeping the following points in mind may help you navigate this time

  1. Listen to your child.
    Let your child feel heard, and understood. Answer their questions as best you can, and show them that you care about and want to understand their feelings. Kids cannot always make sense of what they hear on the news - check their understanding with them.

  2. Talk openly about what is happening.
    Let your child know these are real challenges, but that there are things everyone can do to keep themselves healthy. If you are unsure what to say, it's ok to ask for guidance. Your GP might be a good starting point.

  3. Stick to a routine.
    Kids need structure, and predictability can be comforting to adults too. Let your child be part of finding a new structure that works for your family. Factor in some extra sleep, and time together as a family.

  4. Connect.
    This could be something as simple as a comforting cuddle on the lounge while watching TV; or inventing a new family ritual, like a nickname for every family member or a certain dinner one night of each week.

  5. Self-care is super important right now.
    Not only will you feel better if you are ensuring your needs for rest, nutrition, and time to yourself are met, you will be in a better position to help your child. Asking for help is part of self-care.

  6. Accept help!
    Even though everyone is struggling, if you are also experiencing mental illness it is important to ask for, and to accept, help. It is true there are reductions to support services as a result of social distancing practices but there are increasing numbers of mental health practitioners offering services via phone or internet.

  7. Create distractions.
    When it comes to processing difficult emotions it's good to balance talking about them with finding distractions to take the focus off them. You may already have a toolkit of distractions you have used as part of your own recovery process – it's time to share these with your kids! If you have lived experience of mental illness, you will already know how valuable strategies like grounding, breathing, mindfulness, art, self-care, entertainment and exercise can be. Many people are becoming creative during this time - there are possibly more people in their 20's making preserved fruit than ever before!
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