‘Parent shaming’ is contributing to stress and mental anguish

Children play up in supermarkets, but 35 per cent of parents say they've felt 'shamed' by strangers for their parenting.

Children play up in supermarkets, but 35 per cent of parents say they've felt 'shamed' by strangers for their parenting. Photo: Getty

Parents are still being picked on for public breastfeeding and accessing childcare, as new research reveals almost half of Australian parents feel they have been “parent shamed”.

Mums feel it the worst, and a lot of it happens online, the survey of 1000-plus parents further revealed.

Most of the time, it’s coming from other parents, followed by strangers, and then family members.

The result is that 41 per cent of mums and 22 per cent of dads are experiencing mounting anxiety.

Almost one in 10 parents have sought professional help to deal with the mental illness stemming from parent shaming.

Onlookers are throwing away comments about a couple’s choice to breastfeed in public, to use childcare, and for mums, their diet during pregnancy.

Not only do these comments knock the self-esteem of parents, it can have trickle-down effects to the children, psychologist Sabina Read said.

“Parent shaming is a having a concerning impact on parents, with many suffering from mental health issues as a result,” Ms Read said.

“We see that mums are typically quicker to criticise themselves and take comments to heart, often devastating their confidence as a parent.

“Sadly, this can even have a knock-on effect on children who feel their parents’ anxieties.”

It’s not just happening in public.

Increasingly, parents are turning to the internet to seek advice on raising their children – but it appears the anonymity of the internet gives people permission to be harsher critics.

Seventy seven per cent of parents believe online forums make it easier for others to parent shame – one in five mums say they’ve been the receiver of a mean comment on social media.

One-time The Bachelor contestant and mum Snezana Wood said she’s not immune to shaming.

“As a mum in the public eye, I am exposed to the realities of parent shaming, being judged online for the way I parent my girls,” said Wood, a mum of three.

“In an amazing, yet vulnerable stage of life, parent shaming can so easily make you question your own parenting skills and create doubt within the choices you make for your kids.”

Turning it around

We can’t always control the actions of other people, but we can control our own, and that’s where Ms Read says is the best place to start when it comes to fighting back against parent shaming.

“Be the change you want to be,” Ms Read recommended.

“…Choose to be supportive, compassionate and non-judgmental with all parents, including your partner and yourself.”

Although 71 per cent of surveyed parents – who were asked about their experiences by nappy brand Huggies – said they felt like there was more judgment put on parents today than ever before, the majority also admitted to having offered unsolicited advice.

Forty two per cent just wanted to share their experiences to help, while one in five thought the person on the receiving end could benefit from their advice.

“With many people being unaware of how their remarks are perceived, we need to be more conscious of how we treat parents when they’re most vulnerable,” Ms Read said.

“Taking a stand on the issue is the first step to champion all parents.”

  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636, Relationships Australia 1300 364 277
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