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Signs That A Parent In Your Class Is Struggling With Their Mental Health

What are some of the signs that a parent in your activity is struggling with their mental health? And how can you, as a class provider, help them?

At Happity, we know how important it is to talk about our struggles with mental health as parents. According to a Unicef survey taken in October of 2022, 59% of parents say they are struggling with their mental health. That’s over half of all young families in Britain.

It can be hard to spot when someone is struggling, and even harder to figure out what to do when you notice it. We’ve offered some advice, letting you know some of the signs that someone is struggling, and what you can do to help.

Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical or professional advice if you are worried about your, or someone else’s, health. We would recommend, if facing a crisis, to seek professional help to help. 

Some of the signs that a parent/guardian may be struggling with their mental health

It can be challenging to identify if a parent or guardian is struggling mentally, as people often try to hide their emotional distress or may not recognize the signs themselves. However, here are some common signs that may indicate a parent or guardian is struggling with their mental health, and some of the things to keep an eye out for:

  • Changes in mood or behaviour: The person may seem more irritable, agitated, or withdrawn than usual. They may also appear to be sad, anxious, or overwhelmed. This may be especially apparent if the parent attending your class is a regular, and you notice they don’t seem like themselves.
  • Physical symptoms: The person may experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or body aches, which can be a sign of stress or anxiety.
  • Changes in sleep or appetite: The person may experience changes in their sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping, or changes in their appetite, such as overeating or undereating.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: The person may have difficulty completing tasks. This might not be one you are as likely to spot from the point of view of a class provider, as it would typically include home maintenance or difficulty managing finances.
  • Withdrawing from social activities, or showing a lack of interest: Are they excluding themselves from the activity? Or maybe they are showing very little interest in joining in? They might be feeling anxious or low, and therefore decide to stop participating in the activity

It’s essential to approach these situations with empathy and understanding. Encourage the person to seek professional help and offer your support and assistance if they need it. We have a useful blog showing all the symptoms of Anxiety here and all the symptoms of PND here.

What you can do, as a class provider, to help

There’s a tricky line to walk as a class provider in this situation. You want to do everything you can to help, but you also don’t want to overstep any boundaries that a parent or guardian might have. Remember that every person is different, and what might be welcomed and appreciated for some may not be for others. Have patience, follow the lead of the parent or guardian in question, and try some of the following:

Asking “are you okay?” and starting a dialogue (It can go a long way)

If you spot any of the above signs and think that a parent in your class could be struggling with their mental health, then making the simple gesture of asking if they are okay after your session (in a one-to-one scenario) can go a really long way.

We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve felt so stressed out, that someone asking that simple question can make us burst into tears. But it can also make us feel ten-times better to have got it out of our system and talk through it with another human being. Taking the chance to check in with someone in your class could really help.

Listen without judgement, and show empathy/compassion

Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they might be going through. Acknowledge their feelings and offer validation. Let them know that it’s okay to feel the way they do and that you are there to support them without any judgment. Show kindness, understanding, and genuine care towards their emotions. For someone facing anxiety, stress, loneliness or depression, it can really mean a lot for someone to listen to them without judgement.

If they do not feel comfortable sharing with you, do not push too hard

Of course, if someone is clearly feeling agitated, and clearly doesn’t feel comfortable sharing it with you, then don’t overstep their boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable.

Despite wanting to do everything you can, it’s entirely possible that they don’t want to talk it through with you. The best thing to do in this case is to reassure them that you are there if they want someone to talk to, and don’t push it any further.

Offering a cup of tea and a support network – or recommending a business that offers a similar thing to parents struggling with mental health

When a parent or guardian is struggling with their mental health, it can sometimes feel like it’s them against the world. It’s incredible isolating, and talking about it can be the biggest (but most difficult) step towards recovery. If your class offers a hot drink and chat at the end of the session, encourage them to come along. Tell them they don’t necessarily have to talk a lot if they don’t want to, but the group would love to welcome them along. 

If you don’t run any sessions like this with your activity, then do a bit of research for what sort of support groups for parents and guardians are in your area. Knowing where you can direct parents to if they want to build their network is incredibly useful, and a wonderful way of supporting your class attendees. 

If someone is having a panic/anxiety attack, keep calm and try to handle the situation in a composed way

If a parent or guardian in your activity starts to have a panic attack, try to remain calm. It may be a stressful situation to be facing, but if you remain calm and composed, then it will help the person in question remain calm too. If possible, take them and their child to a quieter spot outside of the room where they can hopefully feel less overwhelmed.

Encourage slow breathing, and offer reassurance, “you’re not alone”, “it’s okay to feel stressed”, “I’m here to help in any way I can”, and try to help them focus on the present instead of worrying about the future. We have some tips on how to manage your anxiety when you’re in the moment. Talk them through some of these points to help them feel grounded.

Once they seem calmer, it is best to recommend professional help to help them handle their anxiety on a longer term basis. If they want to leave your class, ask if they have a family member or friend who could come to pick them up and stay with them for a while. There’s a really great article from Mind on how to help someone going through a panic/anxiety attack here that can give you some great advice.

Some organisations to recommend for a parent who is struggling with their mental health

We have an extensive list of charities and organisations who offer support for mental health on our Mental Wellness and PND Support page,  You can find plenty of resources to direct a struggling parent to on there, as well as a number of crisis lines for anyone who needs it. 

We recommend organisations like PANDAS, APNI and Naytal for parents in particular, as they specialise in offering support for young families, prenatal and antenatal. 

Happity: Created with baby class providers in mind!

If you are looking for ease and a listing/booking service that’s catered specifically to you (busy parents and small business owners) then you are on the right blog page.

It’s free to list with Happity, and you can offer all sorts of ticket options through our site. Though we also offer cost-effective membership for when your baby class needs an extra boost in its marketing or if you would like access to our provider-catered booking system.

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