Mental health and parenting

Help and advice for parents and families dealing with mental health problems in everyday life and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus, mental health and wellbeing

Coronavirus has changed lots of things about family life. And we know that some parents and carers might be worried about how to manage stress and changes to their daily routines. It's important to remember that everyone copes with change and stress in different ways. We've got some hints and tips you might find helpful.

Taking care of your mental health during lockdown

Being a parent can be challenging in everyday situations. Now, more than ever, taking care of your mental health is important. Staying at home more or having to work during a difficult situation can put different pressures on everyone. And if you're struggling, it's okay to reach out for support from friends, families and organisations that are here to help .

Changes to our mental health can sometimes affect children and their well-being. They may pick up on your anxiety or low mood. This doesn't mean you should hide or minimise your feelings. You can try to explain them using phrases like, "It's ok to get big feelings, everyone gets big feelings but it's still the grown up's job to look after the children" or "If grown-up's get big feelings it's not your fault - we can ask other grown-ups for help with our feelings."

When things are different to what we're used to and everyone is going through a big change, it's important to give children reassurance and support. Looking after your own mental health is vital to their well-being so don't be afraid to try new things together or feel worried about doing something for yourself to take care of your own well-being. And reach out if you need help. Our helpline counsellors are here, whatever your worry. You can call them on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

Trying new or different coping strategies can help support your mental health and lower stress in a positive and interactive way. If you have coping strategies that work well for you, keep doing them – whether that's mindfulness, walking or as simple as taking 5 minutes for yourself.

  • If you're able to be physically active, this might help your mental health. It also helps boosts your immune system and can help encourage your children to exercise too. You could try walking, going for a jog or run or find an online class. If you're not able to be physically active for whatever reason there are other things you can do that might help like gardening, sitting next to an open window to get some fresh air or doing a mental exercise like a crossword or word search.
  • Try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern if possible. The NHS have tips and advice to help.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends on the phone or try a video call.
  • It's important to be healthy and eat well. We know it's not easy for everyone, especially at the moment, and if you need help with getting essentials you can contact your local food bank.
  • Keep a journal. Writing down your feelings can help you reflect, understand and let go of emotions.
  • Join a support group or network online. Talking to others in a similar situation can help. netmums.com offers forums for both mums and dads.
  • Create mini zones in the home where possible, allowing everyone to have space. If this isn't possible, try spending set amounts of time in different rooms if you can.
  • Try to have some time for yourself, whether that's within your home or by going for a walk. We have advice if you're not sure if your child is old enough to stay home alone.
  • If you have children who would usually be at nursery, childminder, school or somewhere else during the day, you might have suddenly found your normal routine has changed a lot and are feeling extra pressure. It's normal to feel anxious, overwhelmed or stressed by big changes. Remember to be kind to yourself and reflect on what you can do. We have advice on working from home and finding balance.
  • Managing how you keep on top of the latest news can help reduce anxiety. You could create limits on how much time you spend on social media and set 1 or 2 specific times of the day you check the news. Staying up to date can help you support children with any questions they may have but it's also important to take care of your own wellbeing.
  • Making a plan of things to do by yourself or with your child can help create structure and a routine for the day. Try starting your day with a short list of 4 small, achievable things you'd like to do. If there's another adult in your house or older children, ask them to play an active part too. But, if you're struggling with your mental health and emotional wellbeing it's okay to do the best you can and recognise there will be good and bad days.

Parenting with mental health problems

Parenting comes with lots of challenges, which can be even more difficult if you're dealing with mental health problems.

Not all children who live with someone with mental health problems will experience abuse or be affected negatively. In fact, many parents are able to give children safe and loving care.

But sometimes it does affect their ability to cope with family life. So it's important that parents and carers can find support when they need it.

When we talk about mental health problems we mean conditions like:

  • depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • and personality disorders.

Sometimes these conditions can affect a parent's ability to provide the care that children need. Parents or carers may:

  • have mood swings
  • find it difficult to recognise their children's needs
  • or struggle with keeping routines such as mealtimes, bedtimes and taking their children to school.

If you, or someone you know is struggling, there's support available.

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Where to find help

Other organisations providing support to children and families include:

  • Mind
    information and support as well as helplines for people experiencing mental health problems and their friends and families.
  • Rethink Mental Illness
    Advice as well as services and support for people affected by mental illness and their friends and families.
  • Samaritans
    Round-the-clock confidential support to people going through a tough time.
  • SANE
    Emotional support to people affected by mental health problems and their families and friends.

Help for children

Sometimes children worry about their parents or family members and might need someone to talk to. They can talk to Childline online or by calling 0800 1111 at any time 24/7.

There's also useful advice on the Childline website about supporting a family member with a mental health issue.

You can help us support even more families