How to parent with depression
I feel so stuck! I feel like the only one who can understand the challenges of parenting my children is their father (my ex-H); and I feel like if I share with him he could use it against me whenever he feels. I am worried about the effect of my turbulent mental health on my kids. I’m up and down, I’m teary and short with them. I can see the effect on them; they look at each other, go quiet, sometimes cry too. I hear them say ‘I feel sorry for mummy, do you?’ Master 4 tries to make me laugh; Miss 5 cuddles me and cries; Miss 8 looks confused and teary. Trying to get them ready and out of the house in the morning takes most my energy most days. I’ve come to accept I’ll have cycles of depression on an on-going basis (used to think it was situational), and as such I am really starting to worry more and more about the effect of this on my kids. I’ve tried to find resources to help but keep getting post-natal and kids with depression info. I don’t know what to tell them; I want them to understand but I don’t want to worry them. I’m also concerned how, when and who they might relay this information to. Does anyone have any resources or advice to help me navigate this? Thanks for reading.
Thank you for sharing this here. We're sorry to hear you're dealing with feeling conflicted about this decision, depression you mention. It sounds like a really complicated situation. If it helps, we'd absolutely encourage you to take steps for your own self-care.
If it would help to speak to our team as you process this and cope with the feelings it's brought up for you, we're here 24/7 on 1300 22 4636, or via online chat. We want you to know that you are not selfish, your care for your children shines through in your post. However, you deserve to live without feeling this way.
To discuss what's going on with your ex currently, we'd really encourage you to reach out to 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat.
Thank you again for sharing this here. It might take some time for our kind community to spot your post, but we’re sure they will soon be here to offer their kind words and understanding.
You're a good mum, being so conscious of how your kids may be feeling based on how you are feeling. There a plenty of parents out there who aren't so conscious or they don't wish to be, simply dictating 'My kids just need to suck it up, that's life. It's not easy'. So, again, you're a good, conscious and caring mum.
While my daughter was 3 and my son was about 8 weeks old when I came out of long term depression, I can relate to how you feel in some ways, in not having that sense of control when it comes to the emotions that can come about within depression, impacting our child or children. My daughter used to sit on the couch hugging me, reassuring me I would be okay as I cried. I think, with depression, we need to be able to say 'I'm a good mum having some really bad days, when it comes to trying to manage depression'. While I've faced periods of depression since then and my kids are now 17 and 20, the periods outside of depression have given me the time and ability to better manage and understand my emotions. A little more challenging with younger kids but what I've learned over time is to be somewhat honest with my emotions in explaining how I feel to my kids. This has a threefold effect. 1) It's allowed them to better understand where I'm coming from, so they're not left guessing what mood I'm in, 2) it's allowed them to understand that emotions are a part of life and something worth talking about and managing, as opposed to suppressing them and 3) it's encouraged them to problem solve and learn how to guide people through their emotions. For example
- 'I'm not sure why I feel so tired today and why that's led me to be so cranky'. Their response may be 'Did you get good sleep? Are you eating properly? Do you need a holiday?'
- 'I'm not sure why I'm feeling a little down today'. Their response may be to lead us to laugh (like your 4yo does) or reassure us they've got our back (like your 5yo does, with hugs) or maybe it may involve asking the question they want to feel free to ask 'Such as do you know why you feel so sad today?'. It's a good question, perhaps one your 8yo may lead you to wonder about
- 'I'm not sure why I feel the way I do?' may lead them to ask 'Has someone or something upset you?', leading to greater consciousness. Perhaps it may even involve a brainstorming session between the 4 of you
Just a few examples.
Can be like raising a team of problem solvers who all come to accept it's okay for us to express how we feel to some degree, in a way that's not going to stress them out or leave them seriously worrying about us.
Over the years both my kids have become sensitive to how I feel and it's led them to be able to read the emotions of others, which is an ability. Sensitive kids sense easily. I think guiding them through what it is they're sensing helps them develop this ability. I smile when I think of your 4yo. My son still sets out to make me laugh when he senses I'm a bit down at times. He will not stop until I'm laughing. My daughter's the tough love one. When she senses there's something going on with me that she feels compelled to solve, she can sound a little like 'Okay, sit down, right now. We're going to work out what the hell is going on'. She'll typically lead me to see the issue if I just can't put my finger on it. While I've raised my kids over the years, they've raised me too. Would you say your kids are trying to raise you through depression?