by Colleen Hervey, CA State PTA Family Engagement Commissioner, Derby Pattengill, CA State PTA Health and Community Concerns Vice-President, and Justine Fischer, Community Director for CalHope Schools Initiative Partnership
As parents and/or caregivers, we want what’s best for our kids. We want them to be happy, healthy, loved, nourished, protected, educated, inspired, curious, and to have the tools they need to reach their potential. Children can bring us such joy, but also such worry. Often, we are unprepared to navigate the toll and stress our worry and our own parental anxiety causes us. In our effort to make sure all is well for them, we often neglect our own mental health needs.
Parents/caregivers sometimes need assurances that self-care isn’t selfish! Taking care of ourselves gives us the bandwidth, strength and resilience to be positive influences in the lives of our families and those around us.
PTAs can support the families they serve by helping them access the wealth of free resources available for adults. One example is the no-cost, evidenced-based set of resources available through the CalHOPE Schools Initiative. As described in a prior post, this initiative is a partnership of three organizations; All it Takes, iMPACTFUL, and Z-Cares. The resources provided include films that spark conversations about mental health, curriculum and support materials for educators and parents, and programming that supports social-emotional learning.
One of the most useful tools for parents are the 5 Adult Social and Emotional Learning Muscles mentioned in the All it Takes Building Trusted Spaces professional development. These are strategies for creating trusting relationships with young people while maintaining your authority and credibility.
- Quit Taking It Personal (QTIP) – offering the benefit of the doubt when interactions feel hurtful.
- Communicating With I-Statements
- Ask vs Tell – recognizing and asking for what you need, rather than telling what’s wrong
- Storytelling – telling stories to rely feelings, rather than using them to make a point
- Walk The Talk – modeling in words, actions and attitudes what you expect from them
These are valuable tools to use when interacting with your children at home or at school. For more information about them, visit https://www.calhopeschools.org/atrustedspace
Other helpful resources for parental/caregiver mental health
This webpage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides additional information about the connection between children and parents’ mental health.
National PTA provides resources for both parents and PTA leaders in its Healthy Lifestyles section titled Healthy Minds. California State PTA also provides additional insights and resources.
In our online world, there are many resources available to help families cope with stress and protect their mental well-being, from this short animated video about stress to a whole library of calming strategies provided by the Sacramento City Unified School District.
As a reminder for all adults, when you fly you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on first, if needed, before helping others. That’s because we are best able to serve others when we are at our best, modeling expected behavior and managing our own stress and anxiety.