When you're a parent, most of your energy goes towards your kids. You worry so much about their physical and emotional well-being that you can easily forget to take care of your own. It can leave you feeling unhappy and worn down, and that may make you feel like you aren't doing a good job as a mom or dad. Luckily, there's always help available and there are many ways therapy can make you a better parent, so it's well worth considering.
People often have preconceived notions about therapy, and make judgments about who needs it and why. But in reality, anyone can go to therapy and anyone can benefit from it. You may turn to therapy to work through a problem in your life or with your family, or you may see it as a way to maintain your emotional health through good times and bad. Whatever the case may be, it can make you a happier and healthier parent— and that can translate to a happier and healthier child.
To find out more about the benefits therapy can have on parenting, I spoke to licensed master social worker and therapist Carrie Eckstein. Here are just some of the way seeing a therapist can help you become a better mom or dad.
1. It Lets You Know You Aren't Alone
If your picture of new motherhood was solely informed by Facebook and Instagram, you'd think it was a time of nothing but unadulterated bliss. Unfortunately, social media gives a totally one-sided view and make moms who are struggling to adjust feel even more isolated. "There’s an expectation of what it’s like to be a mom and the reality can be very different, and people don’t talk about that," Eckstein says. A therapist can help you recognize mixed emotions about motherhood are totally normal. It allows you to talk about any "fears, anxieties, worries that you might not feel comfortable talking about to a family member or friend or other moms who seem to have it all under control," according to Eckstein.
2. It Can Help You Deal With Postpartum Depression
As many as one in seven women suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), according to the American Psychological Association. Unfortunately, not all of them are getting help. "There are people who don’t want to talk to their doctor about it because it’s like, ‘What’s wrong with me?',” Eckstein says. Some moms view their PPD as shameful, but that's totally not the case. A therapist can help you understand that it's very common and very normal.
3. It Can Help You Overcome Your Past
If you didn't have a great relationship with your own mom or dad growing up, you might struggle to figure out a healthy parenting style because you don't have a role model to emulate. But that doesn't mean you're doomed to repeat the past. "Going to therapy can help you work through those things so that you don’t become the parent that you don’t want to be," Eckstein says.
4. It Gives You Time To Focus On Yourself
Moms often find it hard to make time for themselves when they're so busy with the task of raising their kids. But it's a great way to recharge, and scheduling a therapy session guarantees that you spend a little while each week focused solely on your own well-being. "Therapy is the perfect time— 45 minutes a week— that's just for you," Eckstein says. "Therapy is 'me time' in general and moms definitely need 'me time.'"
5. It Can Rub Off On Your Child
"A calm parent can mean a calm child," Eckstein says. Therapy can give you healthy ways to deal with your anxieties and frustrations, and seeing you model those behaviors can set a great example for your kids.
6. It Can Help You Be More Present
It can be hard to focus on family time if you're preoccupied by stress, and therapy can give you give an outlet to free up your mind. "Stuff at home, stuff at work, stuff with families," Eckstein says. "The more that you can talk to someone else about it, the more present you can be with your child."
7. It Gives You A Support Network
Being a parent is the hardest job in the world, and it's important to have someone to talk to if you're having a hard time coping. If you can't or don't feel comfortable sharing your feelings with a friend or family member, a therapist can give you the support you need. And even if you can't make an appointment, Eckstein says there are other important resources available you should know about. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline has counselors available 24/7 to speak to parents who might be feeling overwhelmed, and all calls are free and confidential. You can call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) to speak to a counselor, and as with therapy, the hotline is all about listening without judgment.