Normalizing discussions around mental health is something that I am passionate about. After suffering for years in silence my husband and I are taking charge and wanted to share the importance of modeling good mental health and steps you can take to do the same with your family.
Disclosure: I am partnering with BetterHelp. All opinions are my own.
Taking Care of Myself
2019 was a transformative year for our family. My husband finally got the help he needed to work through his mental health and childhood trauma that was deeply affecting our family. I was so caught up, living in a trauma cycle, just trying to survive, keep our kids happy and healthy and work like a maniac to keep us afloat that I forgot about me.
I stopped truly taking care of myself. Exteriorly, I appeared to have it all together, but inside, I remember thinking that I can’t keep a thought together, I can’t multitask the way I normally do, my house, my weight, my children’s behavior and even my relationship were all suffering because I ignored me. There is that old adage that you can’t take care of others when you don’t take care of yourself and I was living that.
Mental Health and Parenting
When January hit, I was surviving. I knew that I was going to focus on finding a better balance in life and that I was going to need to focus on making myself mentally stronger. I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be. I am still NOT the mother I want to be. I still am immersed in work and I have found that during the pandemic, I am struggling with a good sleep schedule, anxiety and being an active mom.
I am meeting my kids basic needs, but I am also not as active as I want to be with them. I tell myself often that I need to play and interact and get outside with them, but my mind is fighting me on that. I have to show up for them, and so I have been putting in the work and taking little steps to do that. It is an active choice I am making every single day, but I know that in the end, it will be absolutely worth it and I will be back to being the kick but mom, wife and teacher that I know I can be.
The Importance of Modeling Good Mental Health
My husband and I were both silent as we were struggling through our own issues. My husband and I both hid our mental health struggles from our children and we are quickly realizing that we need to be more transparent with them and that if we want our children to be open and honest and tell us when they are having a hard time, that we also need to model good mental health and honesty with them.
Children can sense when things are off in a household. You know when they were younger, I was sure that they didn’t realize what was going on and that I was sheltering them from my husbands depression. I would take them a hundred different places without my husband because he was depressed and slept a lot. I would over parent them and was a helicopter mom to a T. As the kids grow older, they have said things to me and my husband about remembering when daddy wasn’t awake a lot or when he was sad. They saw it. They saw 5 years of our family hanging on by a thread and my attempt to mask that from them.
It was then that I knew we needed to change the way that we approached mental health with our kids. I had spent years modeling how NOT to deal with trauma and I needed to change that ASAP if I wanted to raise humans that were going to be able to cope, ask for help and communicate when they were struggling with something. I thought it would be good to share some things we began to implement that helped open the mental health discussions in our house and model good mental health with our children. It has made a world of difference for us.
How to Model Good Mental Health
- Take Care of YOU: My kids notice when I am laying around, unmotivated and in general struggling. I have spent the last month working on making sure that I get up and get myself going, I take time meditate a bit before I face my day and set goals and intentions for the day. I am also physically taking care of myself and doing things for me that I actually enjoy.
- Go to Therapy: You guys, therapy has been a serious life changer for us. With the pandemic it is difficult to see a therapist in person, so I have been doing online and phone appointments and I am telling my children that mommy is having her therapy appointment. We have to normalize communicating and seeing a therapist and there are some great resources that make this easy. I personally love phone visits and BetterHelp has some awesome therapists available for you with an easy phone call. You can do these visits in the comfort of your own home and the therapists are great!
- Communicate: When you are having a bad day, communicate that. When your kids are having a rough day, sit down and talk with them. Be the ear for them that they need and model both good listening and speaking techniques. This by far has been one of the biggest changes in our house and now when our kids are melting down, instead of them storming off to their rooms by themselves, we hug, and talk and I listen and we talk about how to get through whatever issue is upsetting them.
- Healthy Arguments are Natural: My husband and I use to go up to our room to argue over even the smallest of things (seriously one time it was over my hair dryer cord). Your children need to see that even when two people have a conflict, they can both state their sides and come to a conclusion. We have realized that our children are learning to be better problem solvers because my husband and I have been handling the small conflicts in front of them in a healthy manner. Each of us will present our side, then we will often either take a moment to think and come back to it or we will come up with a solution or a series of solutions right there. I actually heard my kids implement this the other day while they were playing in the sprinkler pad and both of them wanted to be in the center getting all the water.
- Praise Each Other Often: Setting a positive tone in your day is very important. Reminding everyone in the household (and outside too) what they are good at is a great way to help you stay positive and to encourage your children to as well. My husband and I praise and thank each other and our children constantly and to some it might seem excessive but to us, this is such an important way for us to show our children that we are both thankful for them and that we see they good that they do and they see the good we do.