Speaking openly and honestly about depression and mental health is crucial in this day and time because so many of us deal with the darkness, the sadness, the disease ourselves. If you don’t, I am sure you know someone who does.
But how do we have this open conversation with our kids? Our young kids. How do you talk about depression and mental health without scaring your children?
How do we start the conversation and tell them “mommy is sad” without causing unneeded worry and fright? When is the proper age to begin speaking honestly to our children about issues we as parents face daily?
Someone I consider a friend and fellow-writing buddy is asking herself this question and has given us her smart and creative words to bring awareness to the issue of depression and mental health.
Mia Sutton paints the picture of depression and how she handles it in her home with her children. She discusses when she should tell her kids “mommy is sad”.
“What’s wrong, Mommy?”
“Oh nothing, baby. I’m just tired.”
I quickly wipe away my tears and plaster a smile on my face. I don’t want to alarm my oldest son, a sweet, sensitive boy who worries too much. He looks at me a moment longer – as if, even at his age, he knows I’m not telling him something.
I take a shuddering breath and tell myself to snap out of it. This depressive funk has to end sometime… right?
“Aren’t you hungry, Mom? You aren’t eating lunch with us again.”
“I’m really not hungry, sweetheart. I’m fine, thank you.”
How do I say to him that I don’t have an appetite and haven’t for days now. It’s all I can do to get up and cook a meal for him and his brother sometimes. I hear the knock on the proverbial door from reality – it’s getting more and more persistent. And my children are getting more observant that something isn’t quite right.
Each time I hold back from talking about my depression with my kids, I feel like it’s a missed opportunity. To share what it’s about, to show that it happens to people – real people that they know. But I also struggle with how much is too much? And how soon is too soon?
I think about the men I want my boys to grow into. About the friends, husbands, fathers they’ll be someday. And I think to myself, shouldn’t I equip them with the tools and lessons of what real life can be like? To arm them with the compassion to know that we are all walking hard paths in life?
And then I look at their sweet, innocent faces and I tell myself, not yet. As someone who had to face certain unpleasant (to say the least) realities at a very young age, I want to spare them from that a little longer if I can.
Balancing the need to protect my kids and the need to be transparent in an effort to remove the stigma from mental illness is an internal war I face every day.
There are people who ask me why I share my struggles with depression and mental health so openly. That it’s a personal issue and why would I want the world to know all about my business? And I always tell them that it’s my duty to spread the message, to let others know they aren’t alone, it’s not their fault. Silence and shame about mental health issues have gone on for far too long.
And then I will afterwards feel like a hypocrite when I don’t open up to my own children. I wonder, will they think less of me? Will mom be less of a superhero in their eyes? I don’t want them to feel like they have to carry this burden for me or feel obligated to “cheer me up”. Or that they will somehow think it’s their fault that I’m “sad”.
Things are still pretty simplistic in their world. Right and wrong and yes and no. But I’m trying to introduce more of the gray areas. To open their minds and to explain that life and people can’t be contained into neat little boxes. And that’s a good thing.
So, I’m slowly planning how to approach the topic and how the conversation will take place. How much detail I should go into and what is OK to leave out. I’m researching resources out there that might help a 6- and 8-year-old comprehend depression and mental illness. But most of all, I’m walking my talk. Mental illness shouldn’t be swept under the rug. Kids can handle a little bit of reality. I think it will only serve to make them more encouraging, kind, and knowledgeable kids.
Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. It’s hard to know right now whether or not I’m doing the right thing. But my gut tells me that honesty is still the best policy. That there isn’t anything to be gained from an environment of secrecy. And maybe they’ll draw on our discussion later in life and remember the moment when mom opened up, bared her soul, and showed her flaws.
She is only human, after all.
She is only human, after all. #miasuttonblog #dedradaviswrites Click To Tweet
I would like to thank Mia for writing such intriguing and personal words about a crucial subject many face daily. Being a parent is hard enough without dealing with a tender issue and subject like depression and mental health. It is important to bring this illness to the surface and talk about it openly, always. But with children? When and what words do you use to explain to the that their mommy is sad.
Mia Sutton is a writer, blogger, and poet. She’s also the Editorial Manager for Holl & Lane Magazine. A lifelong word nerd, she appreciates storytelling in all its forms. In her spare time, she likes to eat donuts and watch cheesy action movies with her husband and two sons. Follow along with Mia on Twitter or read her thoughts on her blog .Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. It’s hard to know right now whether or not I’m doing the right… Click To Tweet
I hope for you today nothing but blue skies–and no blue days. I hope for you understanding towards those who face the blue days.
love and blessings~dd
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