There is no way around it... mental illness affects parenting. This doesn't mean that parents with mental disorders are bad parents. It just means they may parent differently and it requires them to do what any of us should do regularly: constantly be aware of our feelings. For example, a parent living with Bipolar Disorder is far more likely to overreact in choosing consequences (or lack thereof) for their children as opposed to a parent that does not live with Bipolar Disorder.
The film Call Me Crazy details the stories of various people living with a mental disorder. The segment on Grace details the story of a teenage girl navigating through life with a mother who lives with Bipolar Disorder. We can learn several things from observing their interactions whether we are parents living with a mental disorder or family members supporting someone living with a mental disorder.
FOR PARENTS :
.take care of yourself. As a parent, you want the best for your child no matter what. Wanting the best for them also means offering them the best parent they can have. This means being honest with ourselves and confronting some of the tougher issues in order to move past them. When I see traits in my daughter that I don't like, I have to be honest and assess whether that is a direct result of some behavior I have exhibited. If it is - it sucks to confront it, but I have to deal with it for her sake and mine. Taking care of yourself also means establishing a strong support system. People who love you just as you are and will help you walk through some of your toughest moments.
.be patient with yourself & your children. Again, all parents have moments where patience wears extremely thin. This anxiety might be heightened if you're a parent dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If your child is being difficult, it's ok to mentally stop, take a deep breath and then address the situation. Or to let your spouse handle the situation, because it's too frustrating for you right now. This is another situation where being honest comes into play. If you are not honest with yourself about what you can handle right at that moment, it can be damaging for everyone involved. An alternative is to temporarily remove yourself from the situation until you are able to handle it.
.you are still a superhero. Remember that post where I talked about empowering parents and ending the cycle of parent shaming? Yea I need you to remember that in your kid's eyes (and a lot of other people you don't even know are watching) you're still a superhero! You may have a diagnosis - so what? If you've seen Call Me Crazy, you will recall that Grace's segment ended with a beautiful dedication about how much strength, resilience and bravery her mother demonstrated. Despite your flaws, your kid still loves YOU for YOU!
FOR FAMILY & FRIENDS:
.show some respect. We all know you love that family member and you were just trying to help; however, no one requested the cavalry be brought in. Did your family member ask for support? Yes. Did they ask for you to make them feel incapable of parenting? No. Be mindful of what you are doing when you come in offering assistance and support. Or better yet - ask them how they would like to be supported!
.they are still the parent. Remember that no matter how many decisions you think they've made that are bad - they are still the parent. Obviously you would not support the decision if someone was bringing bodily harm to a child. However, if it is a matter of what time you think the child should be in bed or whether they should eat Gluten-free food or not - the decision is up to their parents. I'm not saying you can't offer helpful suggestions, but tread lightly here...
I hope this post made you more aware of how you can support parents with a mental disorder. If you are a person parenting with a mental disorder, I hope this post offered encouragement. At the very least, allow this post to help be a conversation starter.