Parents with Invisible Disabilities

Parents with Invisible Disabilities

Parenting is difficult at the best of times. It’s a constant balancing act, juggling your own needs with those of your children. It’s difficult for parents with disabilities to escape the stigma that surrounds them. Sometimes deemed unfit based on their limitations, society fails to pay attention to their strengths and undermines their abilities. This is no different for parents with invisible illnesses or disabilities, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or a wealth of other mental health issues.

For some potential parents, the fear of what their mental health issues may do to their children, or how it may inhibit them from performing as parents, can be enough to deter them from becoming parents altogether. The stigma attached to mental health issues alone is enough to make life difficult for parents. However, parents with invisible disabilities are no less capable than those without.

Mental illnesses can impact parenting in a variety of different ways. Depression, for instance, can make it feel impossible to keep up with your children on a daily basis. Your energy levels are low – sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed. Anxiety disorders may make it more difficult to stay calm and collected about everyday things. It’s common to worry about passing on mental health problems to your children, or even to worry about how your condition could impact your child. But trust that they’re resilient and that a mental illness does not make someone weak or incapable.

Psych Central has created an incredible list of tips on how to parent with mental health issues. For instance, it’s important to focus on the whole family. Focusing on each other’s well being and looking for red flags in children becomes very important, as it’s suggested that children of parents with severe mental health issues can be at a greater risk for developing mental illnesses themselves, whether due to a genetic predisposition or environmental influence.

It’s imperative to engage in treatment, if not for yourself then for your children. “The best predictor of kid functioning is parent functioning,” says Michelle D. Sherman, PhD, co-author of Finding My Way: A Teen’s Guide to Living with a Parent Who Has Experienced Trauma and I’m Not Alone: A Teen’s Guide to Living with a Parent Who Has a Mental Illness. This means seeking treatment even when it feels like the last thing you want to do. It also means connecting with others. Reach out to the community around you, whether that’s your family, friends, a spiritual leader, or parents with similar conditions. This gives both you and your kids an opportunity to connect with others they can depend on.

This extends further to extracurricular activities, as well. It may be difficult to keep up with everyone’s schedules, but having your kids enrolled in after-school activities or programs, sports, arts groups, theatre and others like it, means creating a larger community for your kids.

There are many ways to be a wonderful parent with invisible disabilities like depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. The key is to find the best solutions for you and your family. And to remember, above all else, that you are not alone.   


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