I recently had an opportunity to attend the Healthcare Purchasers Coalition Conference on Mental Health and Wellbeing here in Colorado. It was a full two-day conference with panels of speakers discussing everything from Rethinking Depression to the latest in Brain Science to Integrative Care. While the information was great and the panel speakers very knowledgeable, one topic that was noticeably missing was family engagement in wellbeing programs.
I am talking about family mental health and wellbeing as a specific focus. You may or may not know that the CDC is showing increases in autism spectrum disorders (1 in 68 children in 2012 compared to 1 in 150 in 2000*) and in ADD/ADHD (5% increase year over year**). Additionally, there are increases in challenging societal behaviors including “screen time”, cyberbullying, reduced empathy, disconnected families, different role models, and many more.
Not only are our children suffering, but also their parents and caregivers, with one study stating that 88% of working parents are suffering from at least one health related problem since becoming a working parent.
Upon further analysis, most of these health-related problems are not only physical, but mental as well, with both depression and anxiety hitting the top 5:
So, in addition to breastfeeding rooms and a little flex time, what more can be done?
In keeping with the trend of addressing the WHOLE person in wellbeing, I think it is important to look at programs that can directly impact the mental health of a working parent or caregiver. Which is why I feel so strongly about bringing positive parenting education into the workplace.
Here are the top 5 ways a workplace could benefit from our programs and why employers should adopt it into their family friendly offerings:
- It provides peer to peer connectivity. One of the biggest messages to come from the Coalition Conference is the need for peer to peer connectivity in wellness programming. By bringing parents with similar challenges together, they soon realize that they’re not alone and don’t have to do it alone. Thus, they feel more connectivity to others and feel the “culture of caring” that the workplace is providing. Additionally, all of our educators and coaches are parents themselves.
- It helps with mental wellbeing and stress– Studies on the efficacy of positive parenting education classes and support speak for themselves. Parent trainings have been cited as having the potential to curb cycles of violence (Bavolek, 2000), reduce neglect and child maltreatment (Barth, 2009; Guttentag et al., 2014), and improve mental health of children and parents (Barlow, Parsons, & Stewart- Brown, 2005; Coren, Barlow, & Stewart-Brown, 2003).***. On a less clinical note, parents just tend to feel better that they are doing more of the “right things” to grow their child into a competent and capable adult and they have more tools in their toolbox to use during those stressful times.
- It increases the emotional intelligence of the employee and their children. Which can ultimately provide for better workplace relationships, greater empathy and increased impulse control.
- It touches upon and can bring an employee awareness about each of the 6 dimensions of wellness. Including, Emotional, Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual and Spiritual. (I will be doing more blog posts on this topic.)
- It helps bring our next generation into the workplace as adults who are capable, responsible, respectful and self-regulated. As we look around at the challenges our children are facing today we should be thinking how can help support these young people? They are, after all, going to be the next group of workers who will be entering our workforce- very soon.
Employers have an important role in the wellbeing of not only this generation, but also the next. I’d love to hear from you as to how YOU are supporting the mental wellbeing of the parents, caregivers, grandparents and families in YOUR workplace. Please leave a comment below.
To learn more about our signature program, Parenting in the Workplace, reach out anytime at 727-599-1365 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
***Working Moms Break Survey, 2011
****Dissertation of Monica J. Holliday, June 24, 2014