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Your mental health as the parent of a child with visible difference

We look at the importance of parental mental health if you are raising a child with a visible difference, and point you to helpful resources.

Being a parent or carer can be rewarding, but it can also be challenging. If you’re the parent of a child with a visible difference, you may experience extra stresses and strains that other parents don’t have to deal with.

On this page, we look at the importance of parental mental health if you are raising a child with a visible difference.

The challenges of being a parent

Besides all the practical aspects of looking after a child, there are so many things that parents think and worry about:

  • How is my child doing?
  • How will they manage changes in routine and schools?
  • Is my child happy?
  • Do they have the opportunities they need to lead a good, rewarding life?

If your child has a condition, mark or scar that makes them look different, you probably worry about all sorts of other things as well, such as:

  • Is my child anxious about their appearance?
  • Will my child be bullied or find it difficult to make friends?
  • Will my child’s visible difference make it more difficult for them to get on in life?
  • Does my child’s condition, mark or scar cause them pain or discomfort?

Having a visible difference can be challenging for you, your child and your family as a whole. However, evidence shows that a lot of people manage to cope successfully. Dealing with difficulties can even make you stronger and bring you together as a family.

The strain on you as a parent

Raising a child with a visible difference can cause all sorts of difficult and sometimes confusing feelings.

It’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling. It can be tempting to put your own feelings to one side and pretend that you are OK. But don’t forget that you are human, you have emotions and needs – and that you are entitled to support, care and attention, just like anyone else. In fact, looking after your parental mental health might be the best way to be a good parent to your child.

It is OK not to feel OK sometimes.

Things you might feel

Sometimes you may wish you didn’t have to manage other people’s reactions to your child’s appearance. You might feel angry that other people can be unkind. All the feelings you experience are natural and understandable. Having negative feelings does not make you a bad parent.

Acknowledging your feelings, talking about them openly and getting the right support for you and your family are all factors in how you will all cope with the things life may throw at you.

Looking after your parental mental health

It’s important to look after yourself. Take some time for you, do things that help improve your mood and make you feel good.

Check out our list of resources for looking after yourself and try out a range of different approaches and techniques to see what works for you. You might find our guide on self-care particularly helpful. If you feel anxious, do have a look at our guidance on anxiety and how to manage it.

Some of these resources are from our advice and guidance section for people living with a visible difference, but a lot of it is relevant to parents raising children with a visible difference. For example, our guide to managing anxiety explores what anxiety is, what it feels like, what is going on in the body when we feel anxious – as well as some tools you can use to reduce anxiety.

If you feel very upset and you are struggling to manage difficult feelings, you might want to consider speaking to your GP for advice and support. They will be able to discuss a range of different treatments to help you manage mental health problems and decide which one is suitable for you.

Audio relaxations for you to use

We worked with a trained clinical hypnotherapist called Julie to put together a series of audio relaxations. Although they are aimed primarily at teenagers and young adults with visible differences, they include techniques which may be helpful for people of all ages.

Session 1: An introduction to mindful breathing and relaxation

This introduction lasts 10 minutes and introduces mindful breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.

Aimed at: Age 10 upwards (including adults)

Session 2: A guided visualisation relaxation session to help build positivity

This 15-minute session helps you to switch off, recharge and think positively.

Aimed at: Age 16 upwards (including adults)

Session 3: A guided visualisation relaxation session to help build confidence and mindfulness

An 18-minute session to help you relax your muscles and find a safe, calm space where you can switch off and reflect.

Aimed at: Age 10 upwards (including adults)

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