Parents teach children how to perceive the world, react to stress, and act toward other people. In fact, parents affect teenagers’ mental health more than any other influence. However, not every parent has the support they need to be a positive influence. When this is the case, family therapy can help.
What Is the Role of Parents in Mental Health?
How does family affect mental health? Parents are a child’s first teachers. They influence a child’s mental health in two major ways: through how they manage their own mental health and through how they parent.
First, a parent’s mental health concerns can influence the quality of parenting they are capable of providing.
A study by the American Psychiatric Association found that children with parents who have anxiety disorders are up to six times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder at some time during their life. Likewise, children with parents who are depressed are up to four times more likely to develop a depressive condition.
However, this doesn’t mean that parents living with a mental illness are doomed to harm their child’s mental health. Talking openly about their struggles and taking the appropriate steps to treat their illness will set a good example of how children should react if they are ever faced with mental health challenges.
A parent with a mental health disorder could also consider attending family therapy with their child or children. In family therapy, everyone can ask questions about how they can best support one another’s mental health goals.
The second major thing that affects the role of parents in mental health is parenting style. Parenting isn’t easy under any circumstances. How parents handle topics like conflict, punishment, and communication can affect a child’s long-term mental health.
How does family affect mental health for parents who want to improve their parenting skills? To best support a child’s well-being, it is recommended parents follow these guidelines:
- Encourage structure and moderation
- Provide guidance and constructive feedback
- Encourage children to ask questions, share feelings, and express their emotions
- Be authoritative yet still nurturing
Finding a balance between authoritarian and permissive parenting is ideal. Parenting styles that are too strict or too permissive can negatively affect a teen’s mental health. Uninvolved parenting—parents who provide nothing more than basic food and shelter for their children—can harm a child’s mental health.
On the other end of the spectrum, too much involvement and constant pressure to succeed in all aspects of life can potentially harm a child’s mental health. A study available in the National Library of Medicine found that family pressure was the most potentially harmful form of stress.
Positive Ways Parents Affect Teenagers’ Mental Health
Parents may sometimes feel like their parenting skills are under constant scrutiny. At times, they may question their own abilities to do the best for their children. While there are many ways parents can go wrong, they also have many opportunities to boost their child’s mental health and well-being:
- Use praise more often than criticism
- Set rules, but avoid ultimatums
- Model healthy coping skills
- Validate their child’s feelings even if they don’t agree with them
- Keep the lines of communication flowing by asking open-ended questions
Mental health concerns happen in every family and are nothing to be ashamed of. However, getting the right support is a responsibility that should be taken seriously.
Find Support for Healthy Parenting at Imagine Boise
At Imagine Boise, we understand that parenting is a difficult job, and parents need support, too. Call Imagine Boise today at 208.487.8260 or reach out online to learn more about our family therapy services and how they can help safeguard your child’s mental health.