My daughter is seven and knows that sometimes my mind has troubles, that I take medication to help those troubles, and that I also sometimes go to talk to someone about my feelings. Just like I go to a doctor when my throat hurts, I see my therapist when my mind needs guidance. Just like I take medication for asthma, I take medication to help bring balance to my mind.
The idea for this post came after reading a friend’s Facebook post about her struggles with depression. Mental illness is complex and feels different for everyone. In my circle of friends, we talk about mental health just like we do a broken leg. Normalizing mental illness is incredibly important.
In May I attended the Annual Teddy Bears Picnic, which is now in it’s 31st year. I went when I was a kid and it is really neat to experience it with my daughter now.
The Worry Bear tent run by volunteer psychologists was introduced this year and gave children the opportunity to explore their worries and assure them that it is okay to talk about anxieties. Just like the Dr. Goodbear tent where stuffed animals can have surgery for a physical problem, the Worry Tent taught kids that it is okay for their stuffed animals to talk about invisible problems. I hope the tent returns next year and perhaps even expands with additional activities.
The culture around mental illness is shifting and younger generations will reap the benefits and be able to further push for and create change. With age appropriate conversations, I beleive it is never too early to discuss mental health with children.
I don’t want my daughter to grow up and remember my excuses. I want her to know the truth. For now the truth is that mommy’s mind isn’t feeling too good today and that I just need some time. The conversations are gentle and brief. Even in my dark times, I can’t say no to a book so I ask her to bring me a book to softly change the topic. The conversation will evolve as she gets older.
By talking about our mental health to our children, they will grow up knowing that help is available and they do not need to battle internally by themselves. They will be more aware and in tune with themselves and their loved ones. That’s my belief anyways.