One in five children in the United States has a severely depressed parent at home. It’s no secret that there is a strong connection between a parent’s mental health and a child’s development. Knowing that the stress of being a good parent as you’re suffering from an existential crisis can be incredibly overwhelming. In addition to taking care of your children, needed to combat depressive symptoms that may have an effect on your child’s development.
In this article, we’re going to review 4 important aspects of maintaining healthy parenting skills while you cope with an existential crisis.
1. Understand how emotional crisis can affect your ability to parent
Mental health is complex. No two existential crises are the same. Though you may be unable to simply ‘get past’ a crisis, do your best to stay aware of your symptoms and how they can affect your parenting skills. When possible, do what you can to leverage healthy coping mechanisms. Children learn how to cope with their own issues by the example of their parents.
If you are zoned out or filled with dread, your child is going to sense that. They may turn away for fear of upsetting you further, or socially withdrawal. With young children, it’s nearly impossible to explain what’s going on with mom or dad. But with older children, you will be able to talk calmly with your child and let them know you’re struggling- but you don’t love them any less.
That doesn’t mean that your child should never see you sad. Emotions are real and they need to understand that. However, if you use unhealthy coping mechanisms your child is going to follow suit.
2. Don’t fixate on guilty feelings
Your mental health doesn’t mean you’re not a good parent. It means that parenting may be a lot more challenging for you. Don’t fixate on the fact that you’re not a ‘happy parent’. This will only make an unhappy parent. Talking down to yourself will only inspire a cycle of negative thoughts that shatter your confidence in your parenting skills. More importantly, it will drive a wedge between you and your child.
When you feel guilty for how you’re feeling or acting, remember that this isn’t the end of the world. Focus on the small joys. Lucky for you, children live in the moment and can help you focus on the beauty of the little things in life. Instead of withdrawing from your child, lean into them. Sit down on the ground and play with legos. Show them something new. Not only does this give you the opportunity to bond with your child, but it also will help you realize that the purpose of life is live.
3. Get the support you need
A therapist can do more than help you work through this crisis. There are plenty of mental health professionals that specialize in supporting parents. Through therapy, you can understand how your symptoms affect your child and get specific advice on how to parent your child more effectively. There are also therapists that work with children to help them understand mental illness and how it interferes with a person’s ability to function. Getting professional help when you’re in crisis will make it easier to overcome the challenges an existential crisis presents to the child-parent relationship.
But your support system doesn’t have to end there! You can reach your family, friends, and support groups alike. Talking with people who understand the struggle of overcoming an existential crisis will help you realize you’re not alone. Many people find comfort in talking to other parents who are facing the same issues.
4. Try to Stay Positive
Like most things in life, positivity is easier to talk about than to execute on. It takes practice. When you feel negative thoughts overtaking your mood, use self-affirmations to inspire positivity. Ask your spouse for help with the children and do something that will make you happier. In short: Do whatever it takes to inspire some happy brain chemicals. If you can’t muster the energy to take a walk or talk with yourself, remind yourself that this will pass.
Trying to overcome the existential dead is hard for anyone. It’s especially hard when you’re a parent. A life-changing event like the loss of your own parents or a decline in your health can inspire thoughts of hopelessness. Whether it appears on its own or alongside depression, the best way to maintain a healthy environment for your children is to work towards healing and if needed, seek professional help. Don’t hide your emotions, but realize that how you deal with the crisis has an impact on your child. If your crisis has already compromised your parenting skills, seek professional help for both you.
What advice do you have for parents who are coping with an existential crisis? Share your tips in the comments.