As a parent or caregiver, prioritizing self-care can be difficult. Among so many other responsibilities, it may seem low on the list, but parents and caregivers often do not care for themselves in the same ways they care for their family members or dependents.

As a parent or caregiver of someone living with a mood disorder, it is fundamentally important to model how to take care of oneself, in order to give your child or dependent a healthy example to emulate as they grow older.

Boundaries Matter

It is never wrong to set boundaries even with your own children. Setting healthy boundaries can ensure you get what you need as a parent. Boundaries will look different for everyone but here are some ideas to help you start brainstorming–

  • Asking your children to knock on your bedroom door before they enter
  • Having a friend or family member watch your children for a certain amount of time each week so you can do a favorite activity or just rest
  • Setting a date night for you and your partner
  • Turning off notifications on your phone by a certain time each day

Whatever boundaries you decide, know that it is okay to play with boundaries before you set them. Try setting a time to be away each week and if that doesn’t work for you don’t be hard on yourself. Try different things until you find what works. Remember, when you set an example of setting boundaries your children observe that as a healthy act of self-care as well.

Start Small

Self-care might be making a favorite meal, meditation before bed, or adding some more nutrients to your day. Self-care activities do not need to be expensive or time extensive, it is more about the intentionality of shifting your focus to yourself, noticing how you are feeling, and allowing yourself to take the care that you need, whatever that looks like for you.

Talk to Your Family About Self-Care

Especially if you have a hard time caring for yourself at times, have an open conversation with your family about what goals you have in caring for yourself. If you are new to self-care, talk to them about what you are trying. When we talk to children about listening to our own needs, we model that they should listen to their own needs as well.

Find Support

When caring for a child that lives with a mood disorder diagnosis, it is important to find support from other people who understand what you’re going through. DBSA has online support groups for parents and caregivers, so you can talk with other parents who get it. DBSA also has an online community, the Parent and Caregiver Network, where you can connect with parents and caregivers in similar circumstances.