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A reflection on parent wellbeing

12 Sep 17
Becoming a parent is often described as two opposing feelings in almost the one breath. People describe their experiences of parenthood as being simultaneously the most joyous and difficult of their life experiences.

Parents have established their new identity in the role of 'helper', providing all that is needed to their child who is physically, emotionally and financially dependent on them. Suddenly, on a surface level, the emotional needs of parents become less important compared to an infant who cannot settle, those explosive toddler tantrums or the emotional intensity of an adolescent.

Early parenthood, with the demand for around the clock nurturing, sleep deprivation, relational challenges and unavoidable changes in self-identity, lifestyle and friendships can be difficult to navigate alone. On some level, parenting can also bring forward difficult memories, anxieties and a sense of guilt linked to wanting to be a perfect parent.

Is it any wonder then that parents find it difficult to make a step towards seeking help to manage and understand their own emotions? Quite simply, the parent's perspective is often that there is always someone else in the family who needs more help. Always someone smaller. Always someone louder.

In reflecting on my work with mothers and fathers who are experiencing emotional or mental health related difficulties, many have waited a long time to seek help. While a parent is preoccupied with the wellbeing of their child, there can be a decline in their own sense of wellbeing and feelings of anxiety and depression can develop. While these parents are generally doing a better job than they realize, they sometimes compromise their own sense of wellbeing and happiness through being so focussed on the needs of others.

In contrast, setting some time aside for counselling can provide a supportive means to take the sharper emotional edges off those normal and challenging experiences in parenting. Some parents benefit from just a few sessions to process specific concerns and challenges, whilst other parents find longer term regular counselling helps to support their wellbeing. Either way, the opportunity to access an outside perspective can be immensely helpful.

Elisha Ebdon is an accredited mental health social worker and child and adolescent psychotherapist. Elisha specialises in the treatment of postnatal depression, child and adolescent mental health, difficulties associated with relational concerns and trauma related symptoms.

For further information on the services Elisha provides please go to: www.thinkingtogethertherapy.com

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