I get asked a lot about kids. More specifically, about how to make sure our kids don’t get our crazy…you know what I mean? When we were pregnant with Brooke, I was so afraid that she would struggle with anxiety and depression and Borderline as she grew. I remember talking to Kevin about it in one of our sessions. He encouraged me by saying that more often than not, the parents who are actively seeking counseling for their mental illnesses are less likely to pass those along to their children. Why? Because the parents are healing and are on high alert for any signs that their children may also need extra help in processing certain situations.
I’ll never forget taking Brooke to the doctor when she was around four or five. We had to go to a different doctor’s office due to health insurance reasons (gotta love Health Insurance, #amiright). Brooke was LOSING HER MIND about getting shots (as any child does) and the doctor said, nonchalantly, “You may need to have her seen about her anxiety.” HOLD THE PHONE…WHAT? I was LIVID that a doctor would throw anxiety around like that – especially because I was already on pins and needles about my kids ending up anxious and depressed.
But isn’t that just like the enemy? He wants to hold our labels over our heads and keep us feeling and living defeated – because if he can, THAT way of life WILL get passed on to our kids. For those of you living with the generational baggage of mental illness or brokenness, then you being honest and getting healthy are the first steps to cutting ties with the past and keeping your kids free from the tentacles of the past.
Kids are intuitive. They know when something is wrong.
A few years ago, I had a major anxiety attack on a Saturday morning. I was supposed to go somewhere with Brooke and I got so frazzled trying to get out of the door, I just lost it and left…without her (Bryant was home – I feel like that’s important to mention here. Shew). I just drove around the block and came home. When I walked in the door, she was devastated that I would leave without her. Then I heard Ryder walking around quietly crying and saying, “I burned my hand. I burned my hand.” My curling iron had been on and he grabbed it while it was super hot and when Bryant and I were both distracted with my anxiety. OHMYGOSH. I just fell apart in that moment. I had a daughter who was brokenhearted and a son who was physically hurt – all because of my anxiety. It was an eye opening experience and one that still breaks my heart. But I decided after that day that I would no longer bring my children into my attacks. If I was going to have an anxiety attack (and I was), then I was going to make the conscious decision to safely remove myself from their vicinity until I could calm down enough to not involve them.
Here’s what I will say, though: I am always very honest with them about my anxiety. If I am having a bad few days, I will let Brooke and Ryder and Braxton know (in as much detail as they can handle at their ages). I try to explain to them that mommy is feeling sick inside from anxiety, something that can make her sad and mean, but that Mr.Kevin is helping mommy, as is Daddy and Jesus. I always apologize if I’ve been hurtful or raised my voice. If I get at Bryant in front of them, I apologize for that too.
The other night as I was doing just that – apologizing for the way I had treated them due to my anxiety – Brooke got her big eyes and asked, “Am I going to get anxiety?” I burst into tears as I answered, “No, Baby Girl. Momma’s fighting really hard so you won’t get it.” Geez guys. That’s what getting healthy is all about. Working our tail ends off so we break the chains and give our kids a fighting chance.
The truth is, we live in a broken world and our kids are broken, just like us! Some of you may be concerned that your kids are battling with anxiety and depression, and if they are, THEY ARE NORMAL AND ARE GOING TO BE OKAY. Do not be ashamed to get them the extra help they may need for a season. Can you imagine how different your life would’ve been if your parents had gotten you into counseling?
If you aren’t sure if your child is truly struggling with anxiety or depression, maybe ask yourself these questions:
- Is he/she withdrawing (from friends, family, school, sports, etc)?
- Is he/she sleeping more than usual?
- Does he/she seem distracted or needing to be distracted more often than not?
- Is he/she more antsy and/or irritable than usual?
- Is he/she acting out – like you feel like all of sudden you are living with a completely different individual?
These questions aren’t inclusive. Jesus gives us parents instincts and if they are telling you something is amiss, then get your kid into counselling! We’ve taken our kids before and it has been SO HELPFUL! Sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of our face. Counselors help us put the pieces together and give us direction in how to communicate and actually be heard. We want to teach our kids that seeking help is normal and good and nothing to be ashamed of!
We will end the stigma of mental illness if we stop hiding behind it. Own your brokenness. Teach your children to own theirs. Jesus shines the brightest in our weaknesses. We learn Who He is when we need Him most. Let’s model this to our children and watch what Jesus does!