Self-care | Advice for parents and guardians | Jigsaw Online


Often as parents, all your focus and attention can go on your children, making sure they’re alright. Understandably your children are your first priority, but with this focus, it can be easy to lose sight of your own self-care needs.

Looking after your own mental health tends to come last on the long list of things to do.   

While this is understandable, it isn’t sustainable or useful in the long run. In order to be able to support young people effectively parents need to be in a good place themselves.   

You may notice when you are tired, stressed or feeling run down, this can have a knock-on impact on the dynamics and relationships in the household. This can then increase tensions and arguments.   

Often when we meet young people at Jigsaw who are struggling with dealing with anger or with ‘bad behaviour’ at home, we find that parents are equally stressed and struggling.  

Paying attention to your own mental health and wellbeing as a parent is not a luxury, it is a necessity.   

So, how can you support your own mental health?  

Give yourself a break

Acknowledge that being a parent, particularly of teenagers, is not easy. There are no rule books and sometimes it’s easy to get it wrong. Be kind to yourself and if you find yourself being the kind of parent you don’t want to be, take a step back and focus on changes that could be made. Don’t beat yourself up.  

Taking time for yourself

The idea of ‘me time’ gets promoted a lot, but as a parent, particularly if you have younger children in the household, it can be hard to find time for this. Taking an hour or two to spend time doing something you love or find relaxing can make a big difference.

If you struggle to find chunks of time, try to snatch moments throughout the day. Can you spend a few minutes really savouring a cup of coffee? In the car can you listen to an enjoyable podcast? Is there time to have a relaxing bath in the evenings? Try to identify some time for yourself, to do something that you enjoy. 

If you have slipped into bad habits with your eating, exercise or sleep routine, be aware that habits can take a while to break

Connect with others

The old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is so true. If you are feeling stressed, are there other parents to link in with to talk about your experience? There may be social events for parents at your child’s school or you could make contact with the parents of your children’s friends.

You may also want to develop friendships that have nothing to do with your children. This can give you a break from your role as a parent. There may be friendships from before having children that you might want to rekindle. The important thing is to reach out and connect with other people.   

Look after your physical health

We all know that exercise, sleep and diet play a significant role in our own wellbeing. However, it can be easy to slip into bad habits. Scrolling for hours on the phone before bed or getting another take-away because there is no time to make dinner can be easy especially when busy. You don’t need to cook organic meals from scratch every day, while practicing yoga on the kitchen floor.

Take some time to honestly review the weekly schedule and see where small improvements can be made. If you have slipped into bad habits with your eating, exercise or sleep routine, be aware that habits can take a while to break. Set yourself a realistic goal and give yourself time to implement changes.   

Be a role model

You probably want your children to be able to be honest about their emotions and ask for help when they need it. You want them to value themselves and look after their own mental health. Often, young people take on elements of their parent’s behavior. Try to lead the way on this by showing them you pay attention to and look after your own mental health.   

Get help if you need it

There is support available for parents who may be struggling and need some professional help. If you feel you could do with some extra support there are a few options available. Speaking to your GP may help. They can also point you in the direction of supports available in your locality.  

  • Parentline is a national helpline for parents that offers support and information on all areas of parenting. They can be contacted on LoCall 1890 927277 or 01 8733500.
  • If you, or your partner, works in a company that provides an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) you can avail of counselling support through that. Some EAP providers can also provide parenting coaching programmes 

To find out more, do this online self-care course for parents and guardians.