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How To Turn Your Mental Health Journey into Valuable Life Lessons for Your Children
Becoming a new mom is a powerful experience that can trigger a lot of emotions like happiness and excitement, but also anxiety and even depression. Postpartum depression can make caring for a new baby and family impossible, but it is a treatable condition.
Most of us expect having a baby to be a joyful experience, and postpartum depression can be particularly shocking especially for those parents who have never experienced such intense mental health issues in the past. One positive takeaway is that successfully treating depression will allow you to help your children deal with adversity.
Sharing your hard-earned knowledge with your children as they grow will give them the tools they need to deal with their any emotional and mental health problems they may face in the future.
It’s Not Your Fault
When dealing with mental and emotional issues it’s common to indulge in mental gymnastics, rationalisations, or even guilt trips to explain how you feel.
So, it’s really important to let children know that it’s not their fault they feel bad. Emotions aren’t simply tied to outward circumstances; even those who seem to ‘have it all’ can feel unhappy or become clinically depressed. Regardless of the cause of the depression or anxiety — hormonal changes, stress, relationship problems — feelings are valid and should never be ignored or minimised.
In fact, the sooner you accept those feelings, the sooner the healing can start.
It’s Never Good to Bottle up Emotions
Ignoring or stuffing emotions is not a healthy way to deal with mental health problems. Putting on a happy face to avoid worrying your loved ones doesn’t help you or them, and only slows down the healing process.
If your children are old enough, you can share your postpartum experience with them. This may encourage them to express their own feelings of despair or sadness with you. Kids need the security of having a non-judgemental safe place, a home where family will always be there for them no matter what. There’s enough social stigma when it comes to mental health issues that knowing there’s unconditional support at home will allow them to at least be open to professional help, and give them the strength and confidence they need to get back on their feet.
You’re Stronger Than You Think
Some women really suffer from the hormonal changes that take place throughout their pregnancies and after each birth, with mood swings that can be frightening in their intensity. Those who are hit with postpartum depression also have the responsibility of taking care of a new baby and any older children at home.
While it’s possible to function and ultimately conquer postpartum depression, with medication and professional help, it can seem like a very long tunnel before you finally see the light — but there is an end to that tunnel, and you did triumph and come through it. So can your child who is struggling with feelings of depression and hopelessness.
Explain that just because they may feel bad today doesn’t mean that they will feel the same tomorrow. Their struggles don’t define who they are, and they will come out of it eventually feeling stronger than ever.
It’s OK To Make Mistakes
Your kids may not understand now that one of the hardest things about mental health issues is trying to keep up with daily activities. As such, they won’t have the motivation to do even simple tasks, because they’ll be constantly distracted by their own thoughts.
This means that they’ll make mistakes frequently and blame themselves. Let them know it’s okay: People make mistakes all the time, especially when they’re struggling with feelings of sadness, self-loathing or anxiety. The important thing to focus on getting help with those mental health issues; all the rest will fall into place as they get better.
Kids are more likely than adults to overestimate their own problems. Lacking the experience that only time and life experiences can give, they will have a harder time dealing with their emotions than you would. Sharing your experience of depression can help calm their fears, as they realise that lots of people struggle on a regular basis.
Tell them how talking with other moms gave you the confidence that you needed when you struggled with postpartum depression. Being depressed won’t seem so scary once they know that others have gone through worse and are now living happy, fulfilling lives.
People Who Haven’t Experienced Depression Have a Hard Time Understanding It
Not everyone experiences life the same way. While some 80 percent of new moms get a mild case of the baby blues, which goes away after about a week, only 15 percent are diagnosed with postpartum depression.
This means that moms who have gone through postpartum depression probably know what it’s like being misunderstood, or even criticised by others who didn’t have it as hard as you. Of course, that doesn’t make the women who didn’t have postpartum depression bad people. They just couldn’t relate to your experience because they didn’t go through it themselves.
If your children are very anxious or depressed, they too will feel misunderstood by their peers, friends, and family from time to time. Teach them how to feel comfortable discussing their feelings, but also how to accept the limitations of other people’s empathy.
Life Goes On
Everyone struggles from time to time. Life is full of ups and downs and kids must learn to ride the wave instead of fighting the tide. You need to explain to them that regardless of how bad they feel today the pain is only temporary.
It might have taken you months to recover physically and emotionally from the effects of postpartum depression. But once you did, you were able to enjoy the tremendous gift of life and motherhood. Your child can learn from your example that successfully dealing with their emotions and mental health issues will make them stronger and prepare them to deal with whatever life throws at them.
Freelance writer Caylin White blogs about investing and personal finance at StockHax.
Edited By Mummyitsok