It’s not something I’ve noticed before. I guess I wouldn’t really. How is my mental health affecting my child? I’m much more of a bury my head in the sand type of person. But something clicked the other day. I noticed that my 2 year old terror child constantly asks people “are you happy today?”. It was when nursery commented how sweet it is that he is so concerned about how others feel. He will instantly try and cheer someone up if they are sad, cuddles, getting their favourite toy, being near them till they are happy again. Is this an act of selflessness and genuine concern? Or is this some of the impact of growing up with a depressed mummy?
Little things he does; like knowing to check my mental state at the beginning of the day to determine what kind of behaviour he needs to select. Obviously if I’m feeling shit it means he can be a shit! Ok, not all the time. Though when I think properly, that sentence shows first hand how ‘parents often feel that the child’s behavior is the source of their distress, in fact often the child is reacting to the parent’s depression’. If mummy isn’t in a good frame of mind it means he can ask for chocolate for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner without too much fight. If I cry then the answer is obviously ‘yes help yourself’.
The research on children growing up with a depressed parent, especially a depressed mother is shocking. Nothing can make me want to change sooner, the thing is it’s not all that easy! Constantly feeling guilty from all these facts and figures, scientific papers. Studies show how children can feel a desolate member of the family, more likely to suffer from depression themselves, grow up too quickly and seek their emotional attachment from someone else. I won’t let this happen to my boy.
Reading emotions is a difficult skill for children to master. Though it’s important for children to see their parents in their unstable times, knowing that nothing is perfect. How else do you learn to comfort someone who’s sad? Rejoice with someone who’s happy?
As soon as I feel my mood slip I try and act. Medication, time alone, planning activities that have to happen and remembering tomorrow is another day. If I can do things one day at a time, hourly if needs be, I know I’ll be ok. I feel that pang of guilt all the time, whether I’m happy or sad. No matter how I feel it’s important to me to show my terror I love him. And for me, him showing awareness of individuals mental health no matter how flippant the comment is to him means the world to me. My terror is so caring. I’m so proud. “Are you sad? Are you crying mummy? Give me a cuddle. You happy now?” 😍