Updated: Mar 1
By: Misty Boucher
One of my lowest post-divorce moments came as I transitioned into single parenthood. I had three daughters under the age of six and was shouldering the entire burden alone. Not only did I lose an extra set of eyes, ears and hands, but I lost a partner to help manage the craziness of raising three children. I felt lonely, overwhelmed and isolated. Little did I realize, I was far from being alone, in fact, parents everywhere felt exactly like I did.
Parental loneliness is experienced universally and for many different reasons. You may have become a new parent, ended a relationship, moved to a new place, or as we all recently experienced, learning to parent through a global pandemic. Whatever the reason may be, parental loneliness is more common than most people realize. And while parenting can feel lonely, parenting a child with mental health issues can feel downright isolating.
Children with mental health issues often require more time, attention and resources from their parents. And in addition to requiring the same general health care services needed by every child, they often require a variety of specialized services that children without mental health issues do not generally need (Byers et al., 2018). Navigating the mental health care system can feel like a full-time job and often leave parents feeling frustrated and isolated.
So, what are some ways to help parents combat feelings of loneliness? Consistent self-care and establishing a strong network for yourself is a must. Here are some other ways to help battle the blues:
Connect with Others: Often we avoid talking about our children’s mental health issues. The added burden of secrecy can increase your sense of isolation. Find your tribe, by joining a support group for parents facing similar challenges. YOU are not alone.
Begin Each Day Anew: Hope is important to children struggling with mental health issues, and starting each day anew provides them an opportunity and may renew their motivation to try again. It also gives parents the chance to put yesterday’s struggles aside and focus on the here and now.
Accept Help from Others: Oftentimes, parents do not ask for help because they do not want to feel like a burden or because they want to be seen as a solid, competent parent. The truth is we all need help and asking for help can ease the stress and feelings of loneliness. It can also help establish a strong social support system for your family.
Set-up a Weekly Date: Talking to someone at the same time every week gives you something to look forward to. Whether it be a friend, a therapist or family member it is important to give yourself permission to step away for a weekly (adult) check-in.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs and feeling lonely as a parent is extremely common. For me, taking time to connect with others is a vital part of managing my mental health. I feel less isolated when I connect with other parents through our shared experiences. Let’s face it, we are all trying to do our very best for our children, so let’s work together to break down the sense of loneliness and isolation that pervades our lives as parents.
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*National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Care Services; Committee on Improving Health Outcomes for Children with Disabilities; Byers E, Valliere FR, Houtrow AJ, editors. Opportunities for Improving Programs and Services for Children with Disabilities. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2018 May 11. 4, Health Care Programs and Services. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518928/