How to Parent With a Mental Illness

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How to Parent With a Mental Illness

How to parent with a mental illness

Living with a mental illness can cause challenges when it comes to functioning on a daily basis. However, when you are a parent you don’t always have the option of not functioning. This is something that I have spent many years trying to figure out. I want to be the best mother that I can be but at the same time I have to take care of myself. Over the years I have discovered five steps that help me be a parent while managing my bipolar depression. Parenting &  Mental Illness are not always black and white. Life is full of gray areas and I hope that these 5 steps will help you learn How to Parent with a Mental Illness.

How to Parent with a Mental Illness

Reading a book - Take time for yourself

1. Take Time For Yourself

This is the most important step to take and one that needs to be implemented before everything else. If you don’t have time to do anything else, do this one step to immediately decrease your stress. As parents we often think we need to be on 24/7 but we don’t. It is also not beneficial for managing a mental illness to not have time for yourself. Set aside time every week and if you can every day (even 20 minutes before bed) to do something you like to do, ALONE. Use this time for investing and refreshing yourself, GUILT FREE. You can’t take care of them if you are not taking care of yourself.

Set Boundaries - Deck with Fencing on the water

2. Set Boundaries

We often feel like we need to say yes to everyone and everything they ask of us. WE DON’T! You can greatly reduce your stress by setting boundaries. This is hard when we feel we are letting people down but taking care of you is more important. When you set boundaries and only say yes to the certain things, you free up time for yourself and family. Plus you are able to give better attention to the things you have agreed to do.

Once you start setting boundaries, it does get easier. If you suffer from bipolar depression, make sure if you are in a manic phase that you are careful of the things you agree to. When I am manic I feel like I can take on the world and often over commit. This leads to me cancelling plans or feeling overwhelmed. I have found that I run things by my husband before I say yes so he can help provide balance.

Writing a List - Make a Plan

3. Make a Plan

When you have a mental illness, there are good and bad days. Make sure you have a plan for the bad days. Some things to plan for include the following: alternate car pool for the kids, simple meals you can make for dinner (or the kids can make if they are older), who to call in case of an emergency, prioritizing the important tasks, etc. Writing out this plan makes it easy for the whole family to know what they are supposed to do/expected to do when you are having a bad day. This takes away stress from you and allows you to focus on what is necessary for your mental health.

Ants carrying a leaf - Support System

4. Have a Support System

You cannot handle everything yourself and it is okay to ask for help. Having a support system (big or small) is important for your mental health and for your family. It is important to have someone to talk to and help you make the best choices for yourself and your family. A support system can be made of family, friends, doctors, and/or therapists. The other thing to remember about having a support system is that you need people who will not only support you but also tell you the things you need to hear (not want to hear.)

Female Lion - Find Your Strengths

5. Focus on Your Strengths

When dealing with a mental illness or even parenting for that matter, we often focus on the areas that we struggle in. Focusing on these areas does nothing except bring us down. Instead focus on your strengths, make a list of all the things that you are good at and post it somewhere you can see it daily. When you are struggling, turn to that list and remind yourself that you do have something to offer. For even more help focusing on your strengths, ask your family to make a list of what they think your strengths are.  They will surprise you with their answers and make you realize you are good at things you didn’t think you are. We are always our worst critics.

My hope for you is that these fives steps will help you be a successful parent with a mental illness. Remember our children don’t need us to be perfect, they just need us to be there.

Do you have tips that help you parent while managing your mental illness? I would love for you to share them in the comment section below.


Tips for Staying Sane


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    • Finding Sanity in Our Crazy Life says

      It is a hard line to balance. I know for me that I don’t like my self when I am manic – I become witchy- so I really feel bad for my family.

  1. says

    Oh, I really admire you for sharing this. I know how challenging it could get. But what I like most about your case is your awareness about the situation and making yourself to function well despite the challenge.

  2. says

    This is a great resource, a support system is major. I couldn’t do half of what I do if Ai had to do it all alone. It takes a village for sure.

  3. Bonnie @wemake7 says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your right, as parents we still need to function for our kids. I like this having a plan idea. I never thought about writing it down.

  4. Robin Rue says

    Having a support system is definitely necessary. When you start to feel like it is all too much make sure that you ask for help!

  5. Rebecca Swenor says

    This is a great topic and great advice for How to parent with metal illness. I love the idea of plan for those bad days in advance. It is so important we take care of ourselves and I believe everyone really needs time for their self daily. Thanks for sharing the tips.

  6. michele dickerson says

    My niece is bi-polar is she has many ups and downs. It’s difficult because she is a single parent with 2 children. I hope your post helps others.

  7. CourtneyLynne says

    These are some great tips! I many not have a mental illness, but I feel a lot of these apply to all!

  8. says

    Mental illness is never easy to deal with what more if there are people around you who doesn’t understand. It’s important to surround yourself with supportive family and friends as well as give yourself ample space for some me-time.

  9. says

    This such a great blog post. I have friends that too often forget all about heir own wants and needs while parenting. Metal illness can be so difficult.

  10. says

    These are all great tips that I hope help others suffering with mental illness while trying to be a parent. I can imagine it is difficult.

  11. says

    Thank you for sharing these tips! I have suffered from depression for years, but after my husband died, it got much worse. I have anxiety, major depressive disorder and probably PTSD as well. It is hard when you just feel like staying in bed rather than functioning. Thankfully my kids are 18 and 21 now and help out a lot.

    • Finding Sanity in Our Crazy Life says

      I know the feeling of wanting to stay in bed even though you know you shouldn’t. It is a daily struggle.

  12. Angelic Sinova says

    Living with a mental illness can definitely cause a lot of challenges. I definitely agree that it’s best to play on your strengths and have a good support system. Those two are always needed.

  13. says

    These are all great tips for parents. I definitely believe that taking time for oneself is an essential component of decompressing and rejuvenating oneself. Having a support system in place is also important.

  14. says

    To be honest, these are great tips for all of us. We all have the potential to get lost in our family and not take care of ourselves. Thanks for this help!

  15. says

    That support system is essential. We have a family member who suffers from a mental illness and we support their family fully. It takes a village as they say and we are happy to be there for her and her family when she is going through a bad time.

  16. says

    When I was a little girl, I had an aunt (now deceased) who suffered from mental illness. Back in the day, no one really talked about it openly and I didn’t totally understand what was going on. Thankfully, those days are behind us. Your tips are on how to parent with a mental illness and how to focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses are excellent.