We need to believe mental health matters. We don’t need a global pandemic to sharpen this view. Our general wellbeing – the state of being happy and healthy, needs our permanent focus. Many parents are boundless at helping their children see the importance of their mental health but at times neglect their own. Unsurprisingly, those hardest hits are generally mums. Mums are never off duty, and many are so exhausted and fall into the resentment trap because they are not looking after their own mental health. Mums, please remember – you are powerful role models for your kids when you look after yourself. Kids copy you, so if you are always stressed and never happy or relaxed, they will imitate you. Prioritise your mental health and support your kids to learn the skills to manage future stressors in a healthy and effective way.
Here are some ways to create some healthy habits to prioritise your mental health:
Self-first, then a chore. When your child is asleep, in-between school pick up, or an unsuspected quiet time, do something for yourself first! Choose something pleasurable or just relax. Mums excel at modelling a solid work ethic and teaching your kids the value of self-care is equally important. Let your kids see you relaxing, exercising, engaging in a pleasurable activity. Even better, tell your kids you like to read or go for a walk because it helps you relax or self-soothe. That’s how kids learn the meaning of self-care.
Let go of perfection – it strengthens self-worth. Chant – ‘this is good enough for now.’ Scrap the ‘shoulds’ and your pressures will fall. Kids learn important lessons from you even when you make mistakes and fail. For example, we can’t expect a child not to be ashamed of missing a ‘try’ during a rugby match, if we only praise them when they get a ‘try’. We need to let them experience disappointment (let them be vulnerable) and normalise imperfection.
What are we teaching them?
- it’s ok to feel disappointed if they don’t get a ‘try’
- to sit with disappointment, and respond with empathy
- to think flexibly/see an alternative realistic view – ‘they gave it a go and will again’ ‘they won’t get a ‘try’ every time,’ ‘they’re not perfect,’ & ‘it’s a game and that’s how it works.’
So, we praise the effort and learning and that’s what builds self-confidence and strengthens resilience.
We do this countless times with kids, now it’s time to listen to our own advice. So, if we miss a business-life goal or something doesn’t go as planned (like a mum’s life at times), same thing, we need to sit with our emotions, think flexibly, act, and cheerlead ourselves.
Mind and body boost. Exercise, healthy eating, and sleep are musts. Grab some sunshine. Research suggests a sunshine boost may help you stay alert during the day and sleep at night. The bright light inhibits the release of melatonin (sleep inducing hormone) and sunlight is thought to increase the release of serotonin, which we know can boost mood.
Stay connected. Let your kids see you staying connected and enjoying life with family and friends.
Prioritise your mental health and practice what you preach, and your kids will follow.
Dr Emmanuella Murray holds a Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) and has been practicing as a Clinical Psychologist for over 10 years. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, adults, and couples. Emmanuella has contributed to various media forums and often presents on an assortment of topics to a variety of professionals and community groups.