Mental Health Awareness Month: Supporting Co-Parent Mental Health & Stress Management – PART-II

May 11th


Caring parents soothing daughter.

Is your mental health where you’d like it to be? If you read our newsletter last week, you know that mental health issues are a real and prevalent concern among co-parents, and yet so many suffer in silence. A stigma still persists about mental illness, and oftentimes people feel uncomfortable talking about the challenges they’re facing or accessing support. We at Koh-Parenting aim to normalize co-parenting struggles and show you that you don’t have to do it alone. In part II of our mental health awareness month series, we’re sharing strategies for nurturing mental wellness in co-parents. Stay tuned as we delve in to the world of children’s mental health in part III!

The Gist

Many co-parents struggle with their mental health, yet due to the lingering stigma people are still reluctant to reach out for support.

Everyone will experience some kind of difficulty with their mental health over their lifetime. You can manage this by identifying your feelings, changing your mindset, finding outlets for expression, and accessing support from loved ones and professionals.

Be proactive about caring for your mental health by becoming self-aware, maintaining healthy habits, making peace with your past, and nurturing people and activities that make you feel good. Prevention is key to stopping problems before they start, and resolving them effectively before they escalate.

The Power of Prevention

His words hold true when it comes to all aspects of wellbeing, including mental health. When we are upset or stressed, our “fight-or-flight” hormones kick in and we can’t access the parts of our brain that perform higher-order thinking. Our brains are wired to solve problems and learn new things when we are in a state of calm. So if we wish to train ourselves to manage our mental health (including our emotions and thoughts), we need to do so proactively, when we’re feeling in control rather than when things have escalated. According to an article from , prevention is more effective in addressing mental illness not only in that it costs less but also in that it maximizes the use of resources.

Armed with this evidence, let’s explore some prevention strategies that will lay the groundwork for mental wellness in co-parents.

  • Get to know yourself. Self-awareness is a valuable tool. Imagine that you (your body and mind) are a car, the only one that you’ll ever own in all your days, with no possibility of replacement. Would you drive ahead without first learning how to operate your vehicle? The better you know yourself, the better you can navigate the hills and valleys of your life. Engage in self-reflection (access any of our helpful self-reflections) and seek feedback from professionals and from those who know you best about your true personality, your preferences, your goals, your dreams, your triggers, your strengths, etc. You can even utilize online resources for this purpose; you can find many worksheets and quizzes that can’t be used as the definitive verdict or diagnosis on who you are but could provide some valuable information to investigate further.

Our training on the essentials of co-parenting includes a self- assessment to take inventory of your co-parenting behavior in particular and set goals for change; stay tuned for how to access this helpful tool! Your understanding of yourself and your needs will benefit you in all your relationships, including with your parenting partner and child.

  • Take care of your body. Nutrition, sleep, and exercise impact not only your physical wellness but also your mental wellness as well. Prioritize these aspects of your life and establish healthy habits today. Make regular preventative medical appointments non-negotiables and pencil them into your schedule. This framework will help you maintain normalcy even during stressful times, such as a separation from your parenting partner or ongoing conflict with him/her.
child psychologist taking care of mental health.
  • Nurture social connections with people who fuel you. Seek out individuals who make you feel appreciated and valued and who practice habits that you respect. Limit your time spent with anyone else who drains your energy. If your ex has a positive influence on you, this may mean that you decide to find a way to maintain the “friendship” component of your relationship as you co-parent together. On the other hand, it may mean that you make a concerted effort to establish clear boundaries with him/her if that influence is negative.
  • Practice gratitude and mindfulness. Gratitude can improve your mood and shine a light on all the great things going on in your life. Expressions of thankfulness can help others feel good, too. Mindfulness, meanwhile, can train you to become conscious of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions and make you more attuned to your environment and to other people. Incorporate both gratitude and mindfulness practices into your repertoire; you will find it helpful in the long run.
  • Make peace with your past. Negative experiences can sometimes linger longer than positive ones do, but you don’t need to get lost in them. Holding on to anger, frustration, or resentment toward yourself or others doesn’t move you forward. Do what you can to acknowledge your hangups from the past with your ex, and then release them. This doesn’t require forgiveness (although it helps!) and it doesn’t mean that you forget what has happened, it just remains that you let go of the emotions tied up in those memories and redirect your energy to what you’d like to see happen in the future.

Struggle Is Normal. Here`s What You Can Do.

We humans were designed to have feelings, and so it’s natural that despite our best efforts we will have moments when we’re struggling to manage them. It’s important to normalize this, to truly internalize the idea that, “it’s ok not to be ok.” In fact, the difficulties that knock us down today may become the building blocks of our stronger selves tomorrow; they can make us more resilient to persevere through challenges in the future.

The prevention strategies listed above can still be relevant when you’re experiencing issues with your mental health- especially if you’ve incorporated them into your everyday life. In addition, here are some ideas for those times when emotions such as anxiety, sadness, depression, or anger (to name just a few!) overwhelm you.

  • Identify the feeling, and accept it without judgment. Putting a name to what you’re experiencing is sometimes the first step forward. That can be easier said than done, though, especially when you’re feeling different emotions at the same time, or if you’ve suppressed them so much that you’re not used to tapping in to what they really are. If you’re stuck looking for the right words, check out this helpful feelings wheel . You can also consider keeping a journal or log to track your emotions and analyze triggers and trends.
  • Help others. Stepping outside of ourselves in service of others can have a therapeutic effect. Consider volunteering for a cause or organization whose mission is near to your heart, or offer to assist a loved one or family member in need, or even commit a random act of kindness.
  • Adjust your thinking. What’s happening to or around us doesn’t always impact our mood as much as the stories we tell ourselves in our heads about it. For example, you may critique or insult yourself in your own mind, jump to the worst conclusions without facts, or personalize other people’s actions (for ex.: your ex is curt and frowning when you drop your child off for the weekend, so you immediately tell yourself that he/she must be mad at you). Changing negative thought patterns takes time, but can be the difference between succumbing to the low moments versus overcoming them.
  • Do something, even if it’s one small thing. Motivation can be hard to come by when you’re feeling low, but if you can get yourself to take one small step, or check even one thing off your to-do list, you can generate momentum that may pull you out of your funk. Consider trying creative activities such as art, music, writing, etc., and movement activities like exercise, meditation, etc. to express and release pent-up emotions. Or, get outside! This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Month, “Look around, look within” shines a light on the significance of our environment on our mental health, and highlights how we can take advantage of the outdoors to improve our mood. (For More Information )
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable and reach out for support. You don’t have to go it alone! Vulnerability is part of being human, so try to push through any discomfort you may feel about asking for help. You can’t be your best self for your child or parenting partner if you’re unwell. Tell friend and family what you’re going through and how they can help, join support groups, seek therapy from a licensed professional, or do all of the above.
    Check out this link from Mental Health America for more ways to find help
  • Be kind to yourself. Do your best to treat yourself as you would a friend who was dealing with similar issues. This may mean realigning your priorities to fit your current energy level and capabilities. Take a look at your day-to-day routine and see if there are areas in which you can lessen the load. You could even consider talking to your parenting partner about redistributing child-related responsibilities, if even temporarily. This doesn’t mean that you’re somehow downgrading your performance or not doing a good job when you’re grappling with your mental health; it just means that your goals and expectations may need to be shifted if they’re standing in the way of your functioning. Give yourself permission to be less than perfect!

Put Your And Your Mental Health First.

Being a co-parent is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have. To push through in hard times, you and your parenting partner may have told yourself that your child is the only thing that matters. However, while it is crucial for co-parents to keep their child’s best interests at heart, you won’t be able to do so if you lose yourself in the process. Let’s prioritize our mental health in the same way we do our physical and financial health, so that we can be our best selves for our kids. If you’re looking for additional support in how to do so, check us out at; we’d love to help! Next week, we’ll bring the focus to our children: the current state of mental health amongst young people, and what we can do today to foster their mental health for the future.


Still Struggling? Koh-Parenting Can Help!

Check out our learning guides that can help you on your co-parenting journey.

Koh-Parenting Learning Guides

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC

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