Friday, May 7, 2021

Mentally strong moms create resilient, happy kids

6 min read
Written by

Feel Therapeutics

Happy Mothers’ Day! How do you feel? Relaxed and contented or exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed? With maternal mental health issues at an all-time high, it’s little wonder many mothers are the latter. However, to raise mentally strong, resilient, and happy children, mothers also need to take care of their own mental health.

A mother’s work is never done

No one said motherhood was easy, but no one tells you how hard it really is.

The parenting books relay tales of perfect babies, and social media is awash with seemingly ‘perfect’ moms who take everything in their stride but have probably never cleared up after a bout of norovirus!

Reality is strikingly different. Motherhood is a 24-hour a day, 7-days a week, 365-days a year job. You don’t get paid, and you never get a day off.

There’s the constant worrying about your children; are they developing at the correct rate, do they have a good group of friends, will you get them into the ‘right’ school, etc. This ‘mom worry’ starts from before they are born and doesn’t end until the day you take your last breath.

Then there’s the endless judgment and criticism, mainly from other women. You are judged on every little thing you do; breast or bottle, disposable or reusable diapers, how quickly you regain your figure, have you gone back to work, or are you ‘just’ a stay-at-home mom?

Not to mention ‘mom-guilt’ when you try your best to do right by your children, but feel guilty that you may still be failing them in some way.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s even worse if you’re a single mother, you can take all of the above and multiply it ten-fold. As a single parent, you take on both parenting roles, are the sole breadwinner, and, more often than not, have a lack of support.

Trying to raise strong, independent kids can be a struggle, especially when every other mother seems to be holding everything together. You feel like you have to give the appearance of being calm, but like a swan, underneath the water, you are frantically paddling to keep your head above water.

Maternal mental health and child development

“A mentally healthy mother supplies the security, stimulation and behavioural guidance needed by the infant and toddler to develop appropriate language, motor and social skills.” [1]

It’s a well-known fact that children pick up on emotions and develop their behavior, good and bad, from their surroundings. This can include parental stress and mental health issues, anxieties about school, family loss (including pets), arguments, and even exposure to serious disasters such as war, crime, and natural.

However, research [2] suggests that stress during pregnancy can increase the child’s risk of developing emotional or behavioral problems by approximately 15%. During pregnancy, there is a strong link between “maternal and fetal cortisol levels”, meaning that if the mother is stressed, the levels of cortisol can affect the fetal environment which, in turn, can affect fetal development, and later life.

Further research from Imperial College’s Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research Group [3] supported this, saying there was “clear evidence that a mother’s stress, anxiety, or depression during pregnancy can alter the development of her fetus and her child, with an increased risk for later psychopathology.

During pregnancy, and for the first year after, mothers are supported to ensure they stay in good health physically, but mental health is sadly neglected. Pregnancy stress is a topic that rarely comes up, and there is still a huge stigma surrounding postnatal depression. This is because, in many cases, women are afraid to flag up how they are feeling for fear of being labeled a ‘bad mother’.

5 steps moms can take to improve their mental health

Whether you’re a first-time mom or a seasoned pro, there are times when you feel stressed out, anxious, and isolated.

The good news is, you aren’t alone, and there are steps you can take to improve your mental health right now and keep it healthy in the future.

Say goodbye to endless social media

Social media is not real. Those pictures of perfect moms with their perfect lives are both fake and photoshopped, and it doesn’t do your mental health any good to keep scrolling through them. It can make you feel like a failure, which you are not!

If you can’t ‘give up’ social media, at least try and cut down. Maybe try having a social media blackout for 24 hours once a week as a starter, and then increase the time you spend away from it.

Eat healthily

Sleepless nights and feeling blue can have you reaching for the biscuit barrel to keep your energy up. But stop and resist.

Sugar is as addictive as the hardest drug, and studies [4] have shown that there is a link between sugar intake and depression.

Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can do wonders, especially if you pack your diet with energy-boosting foods such as bananas, apples, fatty fish, leafy greens, whole grains, and even good quality dark chocolate (go sparingly on that one though).

It’s also important to drink plenty of water.

Recognise your triggers

If you know what your triggers are, you can learn coping strategies to help you get through the bumps in the road.

If you don’t, then keeping a journal will help. Emotion journaling is one of the techniques we use in our Feel Program to help identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and discover emotional triggers.

It’s very simple to do. Every time you feel anxious, stressed, or depressed, write down why you’re feeling that way and what happened to make you feel that way.

The more you journal, the more ‘in tune’ you become with your feelings and thought patterns, which helps you create ways to cope.

The Feel Programs

Using evidence-based techniques, our programs help people reconnect with their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and empowers them to take back control and grow from within. By giving them the skills, knowledge, and confidence to change how they manage challenging situations, they feel stronger, calmer, and more positive.

If you are looking for long-term mental health support or have already been diagnosed with a mild to moderate mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, please take a look at our 16-week Feel Program here. The program was created in our efforts to develop digital biomarkers and therapeutics to bring objective, passive, and continuous measurement and data to reinvent the way we diagnose, manage, and care for mental health.

If you would like to learn how you can turn anxiety into a balanced emotional state, then we urge you to try our 4-week Feel Relief program, which will help you develop long-term mental health coping skills.

Join a support group

It’s important to have a support network, but if you feel you need a few more cheerleaders in your corner, try and find a support group specifically for moms. (Make sure you find a positive one and not one that’s ultra-competitive!)

This can be of enormous benefit, because there will always be someone who’s had the same problems you’re experiencing. Whether it’s a natural remedy for diaper rash, tips on how to get fussy eaters to eat their greens, or just someone to talk to.

Set yourself goals

Every goal you set can be split up into smaller, more manageable goals and targets. They can be anything from taking a walk each day to cooking one new dish each week.

Smaller goals are more achievable and hitting them will help you feel more positive.

As parents, we will make mistakes, it’s inevitable. However, we can’t beat ourselves up over every little blip to appear ‘perfect’ because that’s when our mental health will begin to suffer. Self-care is not selfish, it’s an essential part of being a good mom. If we can be mentally strong and resilient to life’s knocks, we can set a good example for our children.

So this Mother’s Day, remember:

“Taking care of you and your mental health is not selfish. A healthy mom is a great gift to a child.”


[1] Linda S. Beeber, Krista M. Perreira, and Todd Schwartz (2007). “Supporting the Mental Health of Mothers Raising Children in Poverty

[2] Nicole M Talge, Charles Neal, Vivette Glover (2007). “Antenatal maternal stress and long-term effects on child neurodevelopment: how and why?

[3] Vivette Glover, Kieran J O’Donnell, Thomas G O’Connor and Jane Fisher (2018) “Prenatal maternal stress, fetal programming, and mechanisms underlying later psychopathology — A global perspective

[4] Anika Knüppel, Martin J. Shipley, Clare H. Llewellyn, and Eric J. Brunner (2017). “Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study

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