“Mommy why are you so sad?”
I have heard this from my four-year-old daughter several times. What do we say when our kids notice that we are sad? About the time I began to “get real” about my depression I decided it was time to stop putting on a happy face all the time for my family. Selfish? No…at least I don’t think so. I think our kids need to see us have emotions. If everything is always rainbows and butterflies then how will that paint the world for them as adults? I think that may cause unrealistic expectations. Do I put on a happy face for my kids when I am depressed? Sure, of course I do. I can’t be sad all the time or that is all they will ever know. But, because of the depression I can’t be happy all of the time either.
If you have kids I know you have been here before. I know that on the down days it’s hard to get motivated to do anything. I know that the kids have energy and they want to laugh and play and I paste a smile on my face and try to dig that laughter out because I WANT MY KIDS TO HAVE A GOOD DAY. Inevitably though, there comes a time when I just can’t fake it anymore. You know what I mean right? It gets tiring. When I feel like I can’t go on with the “happiness” any longer, I am faced with a choice: 1) Walk away and be sad by myself 2) Be sad but stay with the kids. Tough choices because iIwant to stay with the kids but I can’t hide the sadness anymore. Especially if I am alone with them and someone has to watch them I have to be there. In times like these what do I do? Fake it until you break it? No. I allow myself to be sad. My kids will notice my lack of energy and my change in emotion and ask me “Why are you sad?” or something similar.
When our kids ask us something like this I believe that here is an opportunity to be honest and vulnerable with them. Usually this is how the conversation continues:
Me: “I am just feeling sad today.”
Me: “Because sometimes I feel sad and I can’t do anything to stop it.”
Daughter: “Oh, I am sorry you feel sad mommy.”
Me: “Thank you honey. I’ll be alright in a little while.”
In this short conversation I have taught my daughter that it is okay to be sad, sometimes adults are sad too, and it is good to be honest about your emotions. Something that may help establish honesty with your kids about depression is think about how you are going to handle these issues when you are have a “good day”, when you feel you can think clearly about your kids and their emotions; and think about what you are going to say to them when they ask you those types of questions. There is a good balance here between knowing when to be honest with our kids about when we feel sad and when to push through the day with a smile and an upbeat attitude when we don’t feel like it.
This is hard, I know! I am not a psychologist or anything like that but I can tell you this: admitting to my kids that I am sad has not damaged them, rather it has enabled them to open up to me when they are going through a sad day. And a sad day is something I can empathize with.
I would like to leave you with a verse that I just posted on facebook. Psalm 116: 1 & 2- “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.”
Christian friend, if you are having a down day today, I just want you to know that the Lord is rich in mercy and He hears you. Much love.