Parental mental health: Experts say self-evaluation, getting help when needed are critical

Posted at 5:45 AM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 06:45:39-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — We've all been put through such a tough time over the past year. Yes, we're working to rebound, but experts say talking about our mental health is important.

Parents were perhaps working from home, plus playing teacher and counselor to kids who missed their friends, and much more.

Two local experts, Dr. Joe Rustum, a psychologist with the Child and Family Counseling Center and Kary Valdes, a licensed clinical social worker who runs "Parent Talk with Kary" here in Nashville, are weighing in on the potential obstacles facing parents mental health today. They both say it’s critical parents seek help when it’s needed and take a self-evaluation of what we've been through and where we are.

“We get so focused in the day to day, that we miss it, we missed how we're doing, we miss how our families are doing and I think it's extremely important just to really look at yourself, look at your family and say you know what, maybe we do need support, maybe it's okay that we're overwhelmed and burnt out,” Dr. Joe Rustum says.

He adds a lot of other people are feeling similarly, and are trying to deal with all we’ve been through over the last year. He says it’s important to know You don't have to go through it by yourself, that you don't have to just get by, you can get help.

Kary Valdes, who has helped families in Middle Tennessee for more than two decades, says the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing restrictions really upended our routines to the determine of our mental health.

“We were never supposed to be together this much. There is a thing as too much togetherness. The kids were supposed to be at school, we were supposed to be at work. We all had our separate lives, and then all of a sudden, we are all smashed together in one environment,” says Valdes.

Valdes says families typically are together for a week when they go on vacation, or during a holiday, but the the schedule resumes. That wasn’t the case with the pandemic, “so that messes up a lot of our family systems,” Valdes says.

Dr. Rustum and Valdes agree that it's so important to find friends, family, or church groups to lean on. They add that we've missed a lot of that critical social structure and face-to-face interaction over the last year. It’s important to remind yourself no one is alone in this. They say to be open with your spouse, and even your kids, to an extent. It’s how​ you talk to them about your mental health, that you much approach is appropriately, and be careful not to blame anyone — and remember, it’s alright to be vulnerable.

Valdes offers some advice that I think can help bring a better balance for parents.

“Relationships are kind of like a triangle,” Valdes says. “The top relationship is most important, and this is your relationship with whatever your higher power is and the next relationship is the relationship with yourself.”

Being the best version of you is going to be best for everyone in your life, especially your children.

“The next relationship is the relationship you have with your partner, because when you guys are on the same page, the things that come up with children are not as bad or difficult to manage because we're working as a team,” Valdes adds. “Then the last relationship at the bottom of the hierarchy is the relationship with your children.”

Valdes stresses that relationship with your children works best when your hierarchy is in the right order. She says children aren’t as bad or difficult to manage when you’re mentally healthy and you’re working together as a team.

Both Dr. Rustum and Valdes stress if you or your spouse have noticed a significant change in behavior over the last year, and you've turned to bad habits or developed a dependency — talk to someone — preferably a professional. Here are links to resources, if you need them.