My kids are pretty awesome, not that I’m in anyway biased & not that I can take any credit. They’ve become resilient through so many things they’ve had to deal with at such a young age, but particularly have experienced bereavement in far greater measure than they should have had to at 8 & 10. So they definitely deserve to have an honest mum, even if she’s not always well!
Mental health is like any health. Some people have great mental health, some really struggle with mental health illness, but trying to explain this to kids when you, & most other adults don’t get it is hard. Or is it?
As I found with my father in law & mum having cancer & the children having to be around them while we cared for them, honesty is best. They don’t need to know every detail, but the whispering & secrets can make it worse for them. They are smart & there are plenty of sites around to help with whatever you need to explain. Also I found it needed to let them know they could always ask questions. This does not make it easy, just for me, the best way.
Last week my youngest daughter asked why I looked & seemed so different today than I did the previous day & I had to pause for a moment. Why do kids ask questions at the time your completely unprepared, in public & when you don’t really understand yourself?
So I said this…
“Everyone’s brain is different, some are big & some are small, some are good at maths and some may be more creative. Everyone is different”. I explained that my brain can only hold so much information, so some days I can’t always fit everything in my brain that I needed too. Thinking I was clever I felt I’d resolved the issue… now never assume that with an 8 year old…
“So what happened to your brain? Were you born with it?” This is the point where I usually panic, but I kept with the honesty.
“I don’t know sweetie. I don’t understand it myself, that’s why my nurse is coming each week. She helps me to do exercises with my brain, so that it can hold different & more information”. My 10 year old immediately seemed to relate, “Like when I’m doing maths tests at school, and my times-table”, to which I replied yes. Because it is like that, & she had helped me understand that. I immediately felt a little better, not cured, but like a little weight had lifted. As they both talked about things that had improved by practicing or exercising.
We then talked through how sometimes some of the things that have happened & made me sad, worried, angry or tired, had taken up room in my head too, & each time I talked about it, it allowed a little more room. Again this was just the desperate ramblings of a mother trying to explain to her kids, but it did make sense to me.
I want my girls to learn how to handle their emotions. I want them to know I’m always there & will always be honest. So I have to be truthful & some days that means they see me sad, or tired or worried, but they know I love them with every breath. They know I would do anything for them & they know even on my darkest day, when I haven’t left the house for 11 days, when they have forgotten their swimming kit, I will find some hidden strength to leave the house & get it to them because they come first. However small this sounds, this was the hardest thing I could have done. It felt like I’d climbed Everest stepping out of the front door.
I want my girls to kick ass… which they do on a weekly basis, because they are my little karate ninjas. But I want most of all for them to be happy & healthy, physically & mentally & I can only do my best for them by being honest, open & prepared to do anything to get well.