Purposeful Parenting: How Parents Influence Their Children’s Mental Health

July is Purposeful Parenting Month, which makes it an opportune time to examine some of the ways you can aid your child’s development when it comes to their mental health. Purposeful parenting is also about building strong, positive, functional families and recognizing the importance of meaningful relationships between parents and children. The emphasis behind purposeful parenting is open communication and allowing your child to create a sense of independence.

In families, not matter if the parents of the child are together or separated, it can be a challenge to figure out a healthy way to parent. In the circumstances where the parents are divorced or there is co-parenting involved, it comes with its own set of unique challenges and difficulties that parents have to hurdle. In fact, there are about 54 percent children living in a non-traditional family, where their birth parents are not living together, according to Pew Research Center. It is important as a parent to realize that it is normal for your child’s behavior to change in response to separation of their parents. One thing to understand is that the child is more affected by the duration and intensity of the overall conflict between two parent, reported the Divorce Help Clinic. Coming to a mutual understand and having a purposeful parenting style with each of the parents might be beneficial to your children. This parenting style can help regulate the child’s experience while at both parent’s house.

There are eight key elements behind purposeful parenting that we should pay special attention to. According to Angela Comsa, Director of Child and Adolescent Services For Regional Mental Health, they are: “structure and order, responsibility and accountability, firmness and fairness, limits and boundaries, consistency, problem solving skills, understanding and unconditional love.”

More importantly, there are methods one can utilize to achieve this parenting style. The following tips can help parents develop a more purposeful parenting style:

  • Be open-minded and supportive of your kid’s interests.
  • Share your own sense of meaning you derive from your work.
  • Introduce your child to potential mentors.
  • Encourage an entrepreneurial attitude.

This list is collected from MentalHelp.net.

According to Mental Health Helpline, “The seed of good mental health is planted as early as childhood. Parents happen to be the most powerful catalysts in promoting good mental health in their children’s lives.” If there’s a well-established bond of parent-child communication, this can help reduce the risk of mental health disorders and subsequent effects. If parents are watchful and understand the signs related with certain mental health disorders, they may be able to support and get help for their child earlier.

The signs to look for with mental health disorders are:

  • Changes in behavior and conduct like overreacting, emotional vulnerability, difficulty in gelling with peers, etc.
  • Changes in the way they think about themselves, low self-esteem, negative thoughts, etc.
  • Physical changes, like lack of energy, unusual sleeping and eating patterns, general aches and pains, thumb-sucking, nail biting, etc.

This list is provided by Mental Health Helpline.

While you may not realize it, your children are influenced by how you behave and your actions more so than you think. Even more so than what you do for your child, it’s imperative that you, as a parent, also focus on yourself and your needs. Parents should find ways to take care of themselves “physically, emotionally and spiritually” in order to have the appropriate amount of energy to give to their children, according to the Attachment and Trauma Network. If you make it a priority to have time to yourself, you child is ultimately going to benefit from a more positive and healthy parent.

The practice of self-care as a parent could be the number one thing benefiting your child most. In a study by the University of Toronto published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2015, “researchers noted that mothers’ distress levels have significant impacts on the well-being of children and asserted the importance of supporting mothers in ways that improve their resources and maintain their health.” This means that taking some time for self-care is going to improve your overall effectiveness as a parent, and provide benefits to your overall health and mood as well as your children’s.

So while your children should always be your top priority, be mindful of why it’s important to take time for your well being. Develop your own mental health in a positive way and understand how purposeful parenting can encourage positive mental health for your children and help minimize their risk of struggling with the altering effects of a mental health disorder.

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