Parenting is challenging, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed under the weight of all our responsibilities.

The really tough thing is, as parents, we can be the worst about putting on our life jackets first. We’re so busy ensuring everyone else is looked after that our own well-being is not always a priority.

But taking care of yourself is essential not just for your well-being, but for your family’s too.

In this article, we’ll share eight mental health tips for parents that can help you:

  • Manage stress
  • Reduce screen time
  • Improve eating habits
  • Spend more time moving and outdoors

We don’t want to give you just random tips, so we looked to science and compiled the latest scientific research on what actually works in improving our mental health.

These tips are also easy to implement so you can integrate them into your daily life. 

Let’s dig in.

💡 Good to know:

This article will focus primarily on tips to support parents’ mental health. 

If you’re looking for how to support your child’s mental health, please check out these two resources:

8 Science-Backed Mental Health Tips for Parents

In their book “Hold On to Your Kids,” developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld and physician and best-selling author Dr. Gabor Maté tell us: 

“The essential condition for healthy development is the child’s relationship with nurturing adults.”

Showing up for yourself and your own mental health and well-being is vital not just for you, but for your child’s development.

Below, we’ll give you eight tips that will help you do just that.

Here’s a rundown of what they are (please feel free to jump to what you want to read first):

  1. Eat for your mental health.
  2. Reduce screen time.
  3. Try mindfulness-based activities.
  4. Find your flow.
  5. Spend more time outdoors.
  6. Get moving.
  7. Protect your family from inappropriate content online. 
  8. Limit social media activity.

Tip #1 — Eat for Your Mental Health.

We all know that what we eat impacts our physical health, but it’s just as important for our mental well-being. 

Studies like this have proven that the connection between nutrition and mental health is strong, and making mindful food choices can significantly improve how you feel.

How Nutrition Impacts Mental Health

In his book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again, Johann Hari explains how the way we eat in the West can have detrimental effects on our attention and focus. 

Our modern diets often include processed, high-energy, and nutrient-poor foods, which can lead to obesity and nutrient deficiencies. 

Despite consuming more calories, we often lack essential nutrients like B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium, which are crucial for our nervous system.

These deficiencies, combined with unhealthy habits like smoking and limited physical activity, can contribute to mental health disorders, including depression.

And our highly processed diet can:

  • Cause spikes in our sugar which lead to crashes.
  • Deprive us of key nutrients that our brains need to function.
  • Get “amped up” and unable to focus.

Nutrients play a key role in maintaining a healthy brain. 

For instance, the antioxidant system, which is vital for preventing psychiatric disorders, relies on nutrients. 

Similarly, the concentration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), important for brain plasticity and neurodegenerative processes, depends on what we eat. Studies show that healthy eating patterns reduce the incidence of depression and suicidal thoughts.

While prioritizing our nutrition can feel challenging, particularly within our stressful schedules, it’s worth it.

What to Eat for Better Mental Health

To boost your mental health through nutrition, consider incorporating the following into your diet:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, omega-3s support brain function and have anti-inflammatory properties. They help with synaptogenesis and neurotransmitter reuptake, which are crucial for a healthy brain.
  • B Vitamins: Essential for nervous system health, B vitamins (including folic acid and vitamin B12) are found in leafy greens, whole grains, and lean meats. They help reduce depressive symptoms and stabilize mood.
  • Vitamin D: Exposure to sunlight and foods like fortified milk, eggs, and fish can boost your vitamin D levels. Studies show that vitamin D supplementation can reduce depression and improve mood stability.
  • Zinc: This mineral, found in foods like meat, shellfish, legumes, and seeds, helps stabilize mood by modulating cytokine activity and influencing BDNF levels. Zinc supplementation has been linked to improved outcomes in depression treatment.
  • Antioxidants: Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as berries, nuts, and dark chocolate, help combat oxidative stress and support overall brain health.
  • Fiber-Rich Foods: Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains supports gut health, which is closely linked to mental health.
  • Limit Processed Foods and Sugars: Reducing your intake of processed foods and sugars can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and reduce mood swings.

You might also consider trying the Mediterranean Diet on a regular basis. 

Studies show that a Mediterranean Diet can positively impact your mental health.

This diet includes lots of plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Cheese, yogurt, fish and poultry can be consumed in moderation, and red meat in small amounts.

Head here for Harvard Health’s “A Practical Guide to the Mediterranean Diet.” 

Another practice we recommend is mindful eating.

By really paying attention to what you eat while you are eating it, you set yourself up to make healthy choices

Take time to prepare meals and sit down to enjoy them. 

It may help to keep a journal of when you turn to unhealthy foods. Is it when you’re stressed? Tired? Depressed? Also take note of how you feel after you have eaten them.

Tip #2 — Reduce Screen Time. 

In a world where we’re consumed by all things digital, it can sometimes feel impossible to make healthy choices that benefit the psychological well-being of our whole families. 

Numerous studies have proven that excessive screen time can impact our mental health by causing:

  • Disruptions to our sleep. Research shows that too much screen time in the evenings can seriously affect your melatonin levels, which can cause you to have trouble falling and staying asleep. 
  • Changes in our brains. This study found that smartphone addiction can lead to potentially dangerous changes in the functions and structure of your brain. This can lead to problems with how your brain sends, receives and processes information, affecting memory, how we take in information and how we feel about ourselves. 
  • Physical symptoms and risks. Too much screen time is linked to all sorts of physical health affects, including an increased risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, obesity, and insulin resistance. It’s also linked to neck and back pain, as well as eye strain and headaches. 

Because there is such a strong link between physical and mental health — we feel better psychologically when we feel better physically — paying attention to our physical health can have direct impacts on our mental health, and vice versa.

For our kids, the picture looks similar.

We know, for example, that frequent social media and instant messaging are associated with poor mental health, eating disorder symptoms and suicidal ideation in teens. 

Internet usage is also connected with both physical health challenges like obesity and our kids’ capacity to adjust socially. 

Sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, and an impaired ability to read the emotions of others are also on the list, as are significant changes to brain development

And the more screen time, the greater the risks.

But the next question is – how much screen time is TOO much?

While there are no specific guidelines for adults, most experts say we should limit screen time outside of work to less than 2 hours a day. Any time beyond that should be typically spent on physical activities. 

For kids, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends these guidelines for different age groups:

  • Limit screen use to video chatting. The best example is FaceTiming a parent or grandparent out of town. Keep it short. The toddler should simply observe as you hold and handle the device. 

Limit screen time to watching educational programs. A caregiver should be present during screen time.

Limit non-educational screen time to 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours on the weekend.

Encourage healthy habits and limit activities that include screens.

So, what can you do to make sure you and your kids are not spending too much time on screens? 

💡 If you’re looking for strategies to reduce screen time for your toddler, please check out our guide here: How to Reduce Screen Time for Toddlers: 8 Science-Based Tips

How to Reduce Screen Time

We have an entire article showing 12 strategies for reducing screen time here. But let’s look at the highlights:

Step one: Turn off notifications.

Even if we make a marked effort to reduce screen time, when those notifications ping, it can feel impossible to resist a quick check. 

Turning off notifications can help reduce stress and anxiety, give you more control over your phone usage, and help you be more productive at work.  

If you’re an iPhone user, you can follow these steps to turn off your notifications:

  • Navigate to your iPhone “Settings” app. 
  • Go to “Notifications.”
  • Select the app you’d like to turn off notifications for. 
  • Look for the “Allow Notifications” button and turn it off. 
  • Repeat these steps for each individual app you’d like to turn off notifications. 

If you own an Android, this is the most common way to disable notifications:

  • Go to your phone’s “Settings” app. 
  • Navigate to “Notifications,” and then select “App Settings”
  • Your Android will default to “Most Recent” apps. Select “All Apps” from the dropdown menu.
  • Select the app you’d like to turn notifications off for and then turn off notifications. 
  • Repeat this process for each app you’d like to silence notifications on. 

Step two: Don’t mix screen time and bedtime. 

Most of us spend the highest amount of time on screens just before we go to bed. For parents, this is the time when we can finally relax and not be chasing the kids around for once. 

But scrolling through your phone at night for extended periods of time can actually throw off your circadian rhythm, leading to poor sleep quality and insomnia. 

This is the same for kids. This study found that:

“Both duration and timing of screen use negatively impact sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents, with more than 2 hours of evening use and all night-time use being harmful.”

What can you do to prevent excessive screen usage before bed?

It’s not always possible to keep your phone out of the bedroom. You might need it as an alarm clock or to be able to pick up emergency calls. 

But you can try replacing the nightly doom scroll with healthy bedtime habits. Try putting into place a relaxing bedtime ritual that you enjoy. Bathing, reading, or having a small bedtime snack can all help. 

You can also listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or even learn a new language on an app like Duolingo instead of scrolling. 

You can even set up “speed bumps” like putting a rubber band around your phone or using screen time apps to delay opening an app or reminding you to slow down.

Use parental control apps like Canopy.

You don’t have to figure this out alone.

Canopy, our parental control app, allows you to easily set screen time limits, block specific apps and filter out harmful content (in real time!) for you and your family. 

For instance, you can block specific apps and websites so you or your kids won’t be able to access them.

Or you can simply filter out inappropriate content (like partial nudity or full nude pictures) on any websites your kid visits. This means you and your kids will still be able to access them, but not see anything inappropriate.

You can even disable access to the internet during meal times or family time so your kids won’t be distracted by anything online. For parents, this can help you fully recharge and have quality time with your kids.


If you want to take your phone into the bedroom to use as an alarm but you don’t want to be tempted to bedtime-scroll, the Down Time feature got your back. You can simply disable access to the internet on your phone.

Also, these internet breaks will not disable important features like phone calls and text messages. So if one of your kids is out, for example, you can keep in touch with them without having to be glued to your screen.

The goal here is to help you gain control over your screen time rather than it having control over you. 

You can try Canopy for 7 days free here.

Tip #3 — Try Mindfulness-Based Activities.

Mindfulness meditation has profound benefits for mental health, primarily through enhanced self-regulation, according to this study. This practice improves:

  • attention control
  • emotion regulation
  • self-awareness

The study also found meditation can actually lead to changes in brain structure, particularly in regions associated with attention, emotion regulation, and self-awareness, such as the anterior cingulate cortex and fronto-limbic networks. 

These changes help improve focus, manage emotions better, and reduce stress.

The study also says:

“Mindfulness meditation has potential for the treatment of clinical disorders and might facilitate the cultivation of a healthy mind and increased well-being.”

So, what kind of mindfulness activities can you take part in as a parent? Here are some of them:

How to Be Mindful: 7 Activities

  • Meditation: Simple mindfulness meditation involves sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference.
  • Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises to activate your body’s relaxation response. Try inhaling deeply through your nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth.
  • Body Scan: Lie down and mentally scan your body from head to toe, noticing any areas of tension. This practice helps increase body awareness and promotes relaxation.
  • Mindful Walking: Take a walk and focus on the sensations of walking—how your feet feel against the ground, the rhythm of your breath, and the sights and sounds around you.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body, reducing physical tension and promoting relaxation.
  • Mindful Eating: Pay attention to the experience of eating, noticing the taste, texture, and aroma of your food. This practice helps develop a healthier relationship with food and reduces stress.
  • Journaling: Spend a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can help you process emotions and gain clarity, reducing stress.

But mindfulness can be intimidating to get into first. Here are some apps and resources that can make it easier:

Headspace: This app offers guided meditation sessions and mindfulness techniques for stress relief, sleep improvement, and overall well-being.

Calm: Calm provides guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music to help you manage stress and anxiety.

Insight Timer: With a vast library of guided meditations, music tracks, and talks from mindfulness experts, Insight Timer is a valuable resource for building a mindfulness practice.

Ten Percent Happier: This app focuses on meditation and mindfulness techniques for skeptics, offering practical advice and guided sessions to improve mental health. The founder, Dan Harris, also has a really insightful podcast.

Tip #4 — Find Your Flow.

Finding your flow is all about “losing yourself” in an activity you love. Painting, decorating, playing music, reading a book, and gardening are all ways to access a flow state. 

Research shows that flow experiences can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression and can stop us from worrying unnecessarily. 

Yet, allowing yourself the time to immerse yourself in an activity you love while parenting can be a real challenge.

Here are some tips on how.

How to Find Your Flow 

Know what can get you into a flow state. 

In our busy lives, it can be so easy to forget what even gets us into a flow state. 

Journaling about when you last remember being in this state and thinking about the activities you really enjoyed as a kid can help. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be a professional writer/painter/gardener to reap the benefits of the activity you enjoy.

Explore flow states with your kids. 

Parenting and flow states can actually be a fantastic match! Playing with your kids, provided you are fully present for the experience, can be a wonderful way to both enter a flow state and bond with your child.

Jan Bonhoeffer M.D. writes:

“Children are naturally playful, and you can harness this energy to enter flow states. Join in on their imaginative games, building, creating art, or playing make-believe. See how your inner child gets activated by their invitation.  Your willingness to find delight in play will create a stronger bond, enhance your interactions, and create a resonant field.”

Tip #5 — Spend More Time Outside.

Spending time in nature can help improve our mental health and cognitive abilities. That’s according to the American Psychological Association (APA)

It can help reduce stress, boost your mood, and improve your attention span. It’s even shown to reduce the risks of psychiatric disorders. 

And it doesn’t have to mean you have to go on a two-week hike in a remote area to reap the benefits.

Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature, says:

“You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”

Your kids need outside time too. Check out this interview with mental health expert Johann Hari where he outlines the importance of letting your kids play outside to cultivate their curiosity, focus, and independence:

How to Spend More Time Outside

As a parent, involving your children in your outside adventures is the perfect way to ensure you all fill your nature prescription.

Here are some outdoor activities to try:

  • Take a walk or a jog in your local park.
  • Ride bicycles together.
  • Play a social sport, such as volleyball, in a beautiful place.
  • Make an outdoor treasure hunt for your kids.
  • Garden together.
  • Plan a hike.
  • Learn about the local flora and fauna of your area by going to where they exist naturally.
  • Fly kites or paper airplanes.

Factoring in me-time is also important. Take that park walk after you’ve dropped your kids at school. Sit under the tree in your yard. Remember that you’ll be able to more present for your kids if you take time to look after yourself.

Tip #6 — Get Moving.

Exercise affects our mental health and well-being in all sorts of positive ways, helping with depression, anxiety, sleep, and addiction

In fact, researchers from the University of Southern Australia found that exercise may even be more beneficial in the treatment of depression than counseling or leading medications. 

The CDC suggests you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking) a week and 2 days of strength training. Head here for the details.

Whether you are struggling with a specific mental health condition or you’d just like to improve your mental well-being overall, exercise is a vital strategy to embrace.

How to Get Moving

Find an activity you love. 

You’re more likely to stick to something you like doing. Research backs this up. This study showed that the biggest motivator for novice exercisers is “enjoyment.”

Start slowly. 

The thought of getting started with an exercise routine can be completely overwhelming. The Mayo Clinic suggests starting with a good warm-up and cool-down, and between these, speeding up to a pace for 5 to 10 minutes. You can gradually work up to 30 or 60-minute sessions.

Exercise with your friends or family. 

There’s nothing like an accountability partner to get the motivation going. Exercising with family by doing fun activities like bike rides together can be an excellent way to bond and get the exercise you need. 

(Plus, if you exercise in nature, you get added mental health benefits!)

Tip #7 — Prevent Problematic Internet Usage — For You and Your Kids.

One of the biggest stressors of parenting today is the lack of control we have over the content our children can access online.

From pornographic imagery to violent videos to unwanted messages, there’s so much online that can be harmful to our kids.

In this Pew Research study, “being exposed to explicit content” was the greatest concern parents had about their kids’ use of social media. 46% of parents say that their kids (11 years old and younger) who watch YouTube have discovered videos inappropriate for their age. 

Added to this, the sharing of sexual images has become normalized for younger people. As this study shows, this is strongly linked with increased depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in young people, and can lead to cyberbullying and victim-blaming. 

No wonder two-thirds of parents believe parenting is harder than it was 20 years ago.

And it’s not only our kids who are at risk from harmful online content. Research shows a clear rise in the use of pornography in the last 20 years. 

This study shows, for example, that viewing pornography on the internet increased over three times in the years between 2004 and 2016. According to this study, the consumption of pornography is directly linked to stress, anxiety, and depression.

But there’s hope! There are ways to protect ourselves and our kids from harmful content online. 

How to Protect Your Children from Inappropriate, Nonconsensual Content Online

Use Canopy to filter out inappropriate content in real-time. 

Through AI-empowered technology, Canopy filters out harmful content in real time. That means you don’t have to do damage control after the fact, but can prevent the danger before it happens.

Canopy also detects partial nudity so your child and you are always protected from unwanted distractions that can harm your mental health.

Stop inappropriate images from being sent from your child’s device. 

Canopy can help here too

On iOS, it’s called Sexting Prevention. On Android, it’s called Sexting Alerts. When you enable this feature, you will receive an alert if your child tries to send an inappropriate image from their device.

You can choose from a Standard setting which will detect full nudity in photos or an Enhanced setting which will detect partial nudity, including swimwear.

You can also use Canopy to block your own use of pornography. Head here to see how it has helped our adult users.

Try Canopy for free here.

Make digital education a family affair. 

Technology is ever-evolving and, as a result, it can feel impossible to keep up with the latest threats it presents. As a family unit, establish an open line of communication that makes it easy for your kids to come to you if they feel like they’ve seen something online that disturbs them. 

Nemours KidsHealth emphasizes the importance of having these discussions with your kids to protect them from harmful content and unwanted relationships with strangers. 

By learning about the digital landscape together, you can not only feel more secure in your knowledge about the threats they face, but can also help them understand the reasons why certain rules are in place.

Tip #8 — Limit Social Media Activity.

One of the biggest paradoxes of our time is that social media can make us feel more lonely. 

We know now that social media usage is linked with anxiety and depression

At the heart of this connection lies dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in our brains, which is released when we do pleasurable activities such as eating delicious food or exercising. 

Turns out, it’s also released when we have satisfying social interactions. 

Social media can activate our dopamine release. Every heart or sweet comment signals to our brains that we are having a positive social experience. We want this rewarding experience again and again. And so we keep returning for it. Before we know it, we’re totally hooked.

The findings from the American Psychological Association (APA) are clear: “limiting social media boosts mental health.”

Here’s how.

How to Limit Social Media Activity

Use Canopy to block or limit your access to social media.

Once again, this is not a battle you have to fight alone. Canopy blocks your access to specific apps that are harmful to you. 

That means, for example, that you can still have access to Instagram but will not see partially nude images.

Only access social media on particular devices. 

Social media has its positives.

For example, it can be a great way to connect with like-minded people and be integrated into your social life, which can positively impact your mental health and well-being. 

So rather than attempting to delete social media from your life entirely, try only accessing it on particular devices.

If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on your phone, for example, switch to desktop-only use. 

Use screen time apps.

It might sound ironic to use an app to stop using another app, but it can be an effective strategic to curb social media addiction!

We wrote an extensive guide on the best screen time apps, but here are our top picks for social media (in no particular order):

  • ScreenZen
  • Canopy
  • Minimalist Phone

This concludes our guide on mental health tips for parents. 

We hope these practical tips help you manage stress, improve your well-being, and create a healthier environment for your family.

Remember, taking care of your mental health is essential for both you and your loved ones.

Here’s to a happier, healthier family life! 

Mental Health Tips for Parents – FAQs

The mental health of parents and caregivers is a “critical public health priority” for the CDC. A child’s mental health is highly affected by their parents’ mental health. Part of prioritizing your kids’ well-being is ensuring you care for yourself. 

In the words of this study, “Mental Health Is a Family Affair.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers discovered significant links between parental stress and mental health challenges and their children’s mental health. 

The pandemic was not the first time this type of research was conducted. A parent’s mental health struggles in a child’s early years have been shown to contribute to their experiences of distress right into adulthood. 

So a huge part of your role as a parent is to look after yourself. 

Next, we’ll take you through ways to help your child with their own mental health.

If your child is struggling with their mental health, the best thing to do is get medical help. Head here for the guidelines from the CDC on how to get the help you need.

Then, to help foster a relationship with your child that benefits their mental health, Mental Health America recommends the following:

  1. Pick your battles. It’s a tough one, but before heading into an argument, ask whether the issue at hand is really worth the fight.

 

  1. Encourage communication. Talk to your kids about their feelings, even the negative ones. Welcome discussions about any difficult experiences and troubling thoughts they may have.
  2. Create calm. If your kid is in crisis mode, this can be really challenging. Our instinct is often to panic. Instead, take a deep breath, soften your voice, and give them clear directions like “Take a deep breath” and “come sit with me.”
  3. Help them to help themselves. Cultivate strong coping skills by getting them to ask questions like “What will I do when I’m next in a situation like this?”
  4. Create routines. This can help them feel a sense of stability and put good habits in place. Because sleep is so vital for our mental health, a good sleep schedule is an integral part of this.

Finally, remember that parenting is hard and there’s no one way to do it. Be kind to yourself on this journey.

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