Counseling can help parents in various ways. Some parents become stressed by a particular parenting challenge. It could be a one-time event or recurring situation. Some parents have a child with a mental health concern or behavioral issue. These parents may find help for the child but leave their own emotions unaddressed. This can be harmful. Stress may build up and overwhelm the parent. In therapy, parents can address their feelings. They can find support and guidance and learn skills to address their parenting concerns.
Parenting issues can lead to stress. This stress may manifest through worry, depression, irritability, or anger. Some situations can also cause grief, depression, or posttraumatic stress. These usually involve the loss of a child or partner. When these conditions go untreated, it may impact the well-being of any other children. Therapy can help address and treat these issues.
- One-on-one therapy. Parents may seek out a therapist that specializes in child development or behavioral health. An individual therapist may also encourage parents to make time for themselves. They may remind parents to maintain a self-care routine.
- Family therapy. A family therapist can address issues that affect the whole family. Each member of the family can bring up their own concerns. These concerns often connect to the family dynamic. Parents can become aware of issues that need to be resolved.
- Couples counseling. Some parents may find couples counseling can strengthen their parenting skills by strengthening their partnership. It can also help couples resolve disagreements about child-rearing or family life.
- Parenting support groups. Support groups can help parents at most stages of a child’s life. They usually consist of people who share similar issues. Sharing and discussing challenges in this setting can encourage parents. Support groups can be greatly beneficial for parents of special needs children.
- Parenting classes. Parenting classes can help parents achieve good outcomes for their kids. These classes may improve kids’ grades, reduce substance use, and help parents teach good communication skills. Sometimes parenting classes are court-ordered. A court may mandate parenting classes if parents break child-protective laws.
Parents may have mental or emotional issues of their own. These can make parenting even more challenging. For example, parents may have depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia. These can make the normal stresses of parenting difficult to handle without help. Parents may worry their condition will negatively impact their children's well-being.
Having a mental health issue can affect parents in many ways. Some of these include:
- Feelings of isolation
- Helplessness or hopelessness
- Shame, which cause fear of seeking help
- Worry that disclosing condition could lead to loss of children
- Guilt about not being able to be the “right” kind of parent
- Exhaustion or inability to keep up with chores or childcare
Parents with a severe mental health concern may find it difficult to work or leave the house. They may also have a hard time showing affection for their children.
One-on-one therapy may reduce the symptoms of your condition and provide you with healthy coping strategies. This can lessen your worry and stress as you work toward wellness and parent your kids
If you have anger management or control issues, you may find therapy helpful for developing safe ways to address and manage your thoughts and emotions. This can help you communicate better with your partner or child.
About 1 in 6 parents will experience a mental health concern.
Statistics from 2014 show about 1 in 6 parents will experience a mental health concern. Some risk factors for having mental health issues as a parent include:
- Being a single parent. Single parents were twice as likely to have some sort of mental health issue.
- Age and gender. Past age 35, women are more likely than men to have a mental health concern.
- Finances. People in lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to have mental health issues.
Being part of a lower socioeconomic group and having mental health issues are two factors that increase substance abuse risk. These factors also put them at risk for other health concerns.
Treatment can help parents address and resolve many of their concerns. A therapist can work with parents to develop strategies for getting through times they are most affected by their condition. Therapy can address the issues causing their condition. It can often help reduce symptoms or even eliminate them. Therapy may be especially helpful for issues that affect a parent's ability provide childcare. Parents who take care of their health may find themselves better prepared to face the challenges of raising a child.
Learning new communication skills in therapy. Samara, 30, makes an appointment with a therapist. She is seeking help dealing with her 4-year-old son, Jal. Samara reports that Jal is aggressive toward his younger sister. He is rude, unwilling to listen, and often seems upset. She tells the therapist she has tried multiple things with Jal. But he does not respond to any form of discipline. He will not tell her what is wrong. When she gives him a time-out, he gets up and wanders away. Her mother encourages her to spank Jal. But Samara says she is unwilling to do so. The therapist agrees spanking is not recommended. They ask Samara a little more about Jal's behavior. The therapist learns that Jal began to act in a disruptive way shortly after his sister's first birthday. Samara says he did not seem jealous at first. But now, he refers to his sister only as "stupid baby." He often takes her toys and tosses pillows and soft toys at her. The therapist encourages Samara to bring Jal in for a session. After her discussion with Jal, the therapist reports that Jal is frustrated. His sister often wakes him up when she wakes in the night. (The two children share a room.) Although she is rocked back to sleep, he has to get back to sleep on his own. This is sometimes difficult for him. His tiredness and frustration is expressed through rudeness toward his sister and general irritability. The house is not large enough for Jal to have his own room. But from that point on, whenever Samara puts her daughter back to sleep, she also spends time helping Jal get back to sleep. His behavior begins to improve. Samara encourages Jal to discuss any frustrations with her. She resolves to pay more attention to any potential stressors that may affect him.
- Arky, B. (n.d.). How parent support groups can help. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/how-parent-support-groups-can-help
- Lundeberg, S. (2016, December 5). Parenting classes benefit all, especially lower-income families. Retrieved from http://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2016/dec/parenting-classes-benefit-all-especially-lower-income-families
- Parenting with a mental illness. (2014, April 23). Retrieved from http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/parenting_with_a_mental_illness.html