Parent and carer wellbeing

As a parent, it is often hard to juggle the demands that life throws at you. Understanding and navigating your own mental health as a parent will help set you and your family up for success; it will help you be in a better place and help your child grow and develop in their surrounding environment. 

Coping strategies for parents and carers

Looking after your own mental health will help make you a better parent for your children. 

You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Top tips for parents 

Self-care

Although you may not have tried some of these tips before, they are designed to be used by anyone at any time. Techniques like breathwork, slow calm box breathing or meditation are all great ways to practice self-care. It helps slow your day down and prioritise your mind’s health.

 

Understanding what is within your control

Putting effort into what is in your control, and letting go of what you cannot control will help you focus on the important things. It will also help you get some sleep at night too.

Identify why you may be feeling low

Understanding the contributing factors when you do feel low can be a great way to identify the issues you may be facing. This could be work life, finances or your child’s schooling. Compartmentalising these parts of life will help you cope with any issues that arise.

Acknowledge it's OK to feel sad of stressed at times

Being a parent is tough work sometimes. Being tough on yourself won’t help matters. Striving for happiness all of the time isn’t realistic. Knowing that sometimes you’re going to feel a little down, sad or angry is OK. These are all normal emotions to express. How we deal with them is the next step.

Write down or think about what you're grateful for in your life

Although it may be tough at times to find things in your day that you’re grateful for, gratitude has been shown to help people feel more positive about their lives and be able to deal with adversity better. The more you practice this each day or week, the more likely you are to benefit from it.

Take time for yourself through the day

Often parents get wrapped up in caring for their children and forget they need time to themselves for their own mental health sometimes. Find a family member, partner or service provider who is willing to take care of your child every now and then so you can do the things you love. If these aren’t available to you, find a few minutes each day to close your eyes, sit calmly and appreciate the space you’re in. 

Understand being a parent is just a part of who you are as a person

Going out to see friends, enjoying going to the movies with your partner or going for a dip in the nearest pool or ocean are all ways to feel good about yourself. 

Priorities time for movement

There is strong evidence showing that the more we move, the more our mental health improves. Find time throughout the week to hit the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity. If you're struggling to find the time, some movement is better than nothing.

Priorities healthy eating patterns

Remember, you are not alone on the journey to improve your mental health as a parent. Reaching out to friends, family or a health professional is a completely normal and healthy action to take. This can be a simple catch-up or check-in through to a conversation about some specific mental health concerns you may have. 

Crying babies

If you are a parent of a newborn, there are some extra coping strategies to help you get through this stage of your baby’s life. 

Crying patterns are very common in new babies. They start to increase at two weeks of age, peak in the second month of life and tend to decrease by the age of five months. While it is one of the biggest stressors for new parents, understand that early increased infant crying is common for newborn babies. It is normal for babies to cry a lot as it is their only way of communicating at a you age. People often refer to these long periods of crying as Colic. 

The Period of PURPLE Crying helps parents unpack the nuance of when and why their baby might be crying.

The Period of PURPLE Crying

  • P - Peak of crying: Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month 2, then less in months 3-5 
  • U - Unexpected: Crying can come and go and you don’t know why 
  • R - Resists soothing: Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try 
  • P - Pain-like face: A crying baby may look like they are in pain, even when they are not 
  • L - Long lasting: Crying can last as much as 5 hours a day or more 
  • E - Evening: Your baby may cry more in the later afternoon and evening 

Coping mechanisms

It can be very frustrating when your baby does not stop crying. You’ve done what you can by changing their nappy, feeding them and checking their temperature, but what are some other actions or coping mechanisms you can employ if you’re baby keeps crying? 

Tag out

If you have the family and support network around you, use TAG OUT to say ‘I’ve had enough and I’m just not coping right now’. Hand your crying baby over to someone who can look after your child for 5-10 minutes. 

It can be your partner, family member or a trusted neighbour. It takes a village to raise a child and we need to lean on them every now and then to get through. 

Step out

Sometimes we can find ourselves as the primary carer for our baby without anyone in the house to help. In this instance, it is totally ok to make sure your child is swaddled, laying down safely in a cool room and for you to step out for a few minutes while they cry. It’s best for you, as a carer, and your baby to allow yourself that space to breathe and calm down momentarily. 

See Newborn sleeping for more tips on how to safety leave your baby safely in a room.

Reach out

You’re not alone as a parent. Reaching out can be one of the best things you can do to share your frustration, ask for advice or seek further professional help. 

You may feel helpless at times when your baby keeps crying. It’s important to know as a parent that you “can’t fill from an empty cup”. In order for you to look after and care for your young child, you must take care of yourself first. 

See Accessing services for how to find free and confidential support as a parent.

Parents or carers experiencing mental ill health

With 42.9% of people aged 16-85 experiencing a mental health condition at some stage in their life, it is fair to say, parents are not immune to mental ill health. Up to 1 in 4 children in Australia are being raised by a parent or parents with a mental health condition. 

When you have children, it is normal to face challenges and grow alongside them as a family. Having a mental health condition makes some of these challenges more difficult.  

Tips for living with a mental health condition

  • Be open with your child about how you’re feeling or your mental health condition. This can be a good way to help your family understand what you’re going through.  
  • Stay connected as much as you can with your child. Your child can often bring out the best in you and have a refreshing outlook on a situation. Don’t underestimate their potential to contribute and connect.
  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it. It takes a village to raise a child so lean on those you can. 
  • Seek professional help by starting with your doctor (GP). If you don’t have a GP, search for one in your area and set up a consultation. 

Talking to a health professional about mental health

If you’re looking for professional help to work through your own mental health journey, your family doctor (GP) is a great place to start. They will be able to provide support themselves or help refer you to a specialist in the area. 

At any stage during a consultation with a health professional, feel free to ask them to clarify a point they have made or ask for a longer consultation for the next appointment. 

Information you may be asked to provide to your doctor

  • Your current symptoms, thoughts and feelings 
  • How long you have felt a certain way and whether there is a specific reason you’ve decided to have the conversation 
  • How serious your concerns are about your mental health 
  • How your mental health is currently affecting your life 
  • Whether you have seen a health professional in the past about mental health 
  • Your lifestyle choices including smoking or drinking 
  • Your current physical health 
  • Stress levels in your life including work, family and finances 
  • Any medication you’re currently on.

All of the information that you provide to your doctor is considered confidential. Unless you later agree to it, the discussion you have with a health professional will remain private. 

This can give you peace of mind to open up about how you’re feeling and understand the coping strategies to support it. 

Mental Health Treatment Plans

Once you have seen your doctor about any of your mental health concerns, they may refer you to gain additional support from a psychologist. If you have been concerned about your mental health, be clear with your doctor that you would like to access additional support through a mental health care plan. 

If your doctor has discussed and assessed you to have a mental health condition, you will be referred on to see a psychologist who specialises in this space. They can help navigate issues that you face in life.

A mental health treatment plan lets you claim up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional each calendar year.  

If you are someone who lives in a rural or regional area discussing your mental health with a doctor or psychologist is now made easier via telehealth video consultations. You can still claim these telehealth sessions through the same mental health treatment plan process. 

Seeking help

Over 3.4 million Australians seek mental health support each year from a health professional. It is a normal part of staying on top of your overall health.

Last updated Wednesday 31st January 2024