I remember being pregnant with Abbie, thinking about what she would look like, what would she be like, would she be a Mummy’s Girl or Daddy’s Girl, what would she want to be when she grows up etc etc… not once did I think ‘Oh I hope she has good mental health’.
It just wasn’t something that crossed my mind… and to be quite honest not something I’ve thought about much AT ALL until recently when I started to get to grips with my own mental health not being at its best and also noticing changes in Abbie as she gets older, more clued up and of course is having more life experiences and challenges.
As a Mum something I think about on the regs is ‘I really hope I don’t screw my kids up’. By think, I mean worry. This last 18 months have been pretty tough, going from 1 to 2 is hard, our relationship has hit rock bottom more than once, I’ve cried and screamed and shouted ALOT in front of Abbie… and whilst I know its important for her to know it’s OK to not be OK… I feel that there were times where I should of held it together for her sake because quite frankly seeing your Mum upset is pretty heart wrenching and I cant help but feel to blame for her being over sensitive and anxious at times.
Now that I feel like I and We are coming out of the fog and life doesn’t feel so tough, I’ve noticed changes in my daughter. My daughter who I look at and feel like I’ve blinked and missed 18 months of her life.
She makes little comments and I think ‘why are you worried about that?!’ or she will sit with a look of concern on her face picking her lips and I just wish I knew what she was thinking. I know its all so minor and not much to worry about in the grand scheme of things… but knowing my own behaviour and how I deal with things I can’t help but worry she is mirroring some of that and I wish I sometimes knew the right thing to say to her to know whats on her mind.
I went to a Childs Mental Health Workshop recently with Sarah @themindmedic who is a Psychiatrist specialising in Children and Adolescents and something I picked up which is SO simple was to just ask Abs ‘How Are You Feeling?’ and obviously as she is only 4 it might be difficult for her to talk about things or explain so asking her to draw a face of how she’s feeling could be a way for her to communicate if something was bothering her.
Sarah talked about her TLC system for having conversations with your children if you are worried about them. T for Time, make sure it’s a suitable time… not when you are rushing around in the morning or in the middle of Aldi’s… L for Location, make sure its a place where the child feels safe and comfortable and C for Child, every single child is different… you wont be able to have the same convo with a 5 year old as you would with a 15 year old.
She also talked about her Traffic Light system which we were given a handy little card of so I’ll pop a photo below of that.Just to add as well Sarah has a book available for pre-order which you can order here.
Photo Credits @themindmedic Instagram.
Now I’m a self confessed over thinker and worrier, I came away from the workshop feeling SO reassured that I don’t need to worry SO much about things but also armed with some better communication skills for if/when I ever do need have a conversation with Abs that might be tough.
I think is SO amazing how much more people are speaking about mental health and we definitely all need to keep those conversations going but it’s also so important to know what to do next and how to take action when there is a genuine concern.
As Mums we all have a built in instinct, that gut feeling… and whenever I get asked what would be your biggest piece of advice to a new parent… it would be to always listen to that gut instinct… If you truly feel something isn’t right, ask for help, if nobody helps you push and demand until you feel reassured that something is being done. Keep those conversations going with your kids and reassure them that it’s OK to not be OK… I’m no expert but I KNOW I’m doing a good job, I make mistakes, probably daily… but I learn from them and move forward feeling like I’m grasping motherhood just that little bit better (not always) but knowing those bad days are just part of the parcel and knowing that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel is very comforting.
So I’m going to worry less, embrace more and listen to my gut, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help if you need it and with the conversation about mental health being more open than ever, If you feel able to share your story then please do as you never know who you could be helping… and hopefully our children will grow up feeling able and confident to talk and know its OK to not be OK.