As someone who experienced postpartum depression, and someone who is a full-time advocate for the mental health of mothers, I’m keenly aware of the importance of emotional health.
I know that mental illness can be hereditary, and that my children have a higher risk than normal, though it is not guaranteed they will ever suffer from depression or anxiety. Still, I watch them like a hawk.
It’s hard to know exactly what to do to raise emotionally healthy children. It’s cliche I know, but there really is no guidebook. I just know I want my kids to be kind and to be treated kindly in return. I want them to be able to self-soothe, and to be resilient. I want them to know about safe ways to deal with their feelings.
People who are emotionally unhealthy and without good coping mechanisms can make bad choices, choices that can harm, whether it’s self-medication with drugs and alcohol or choosing bad relationships. I know I can’t control what my kids do when they grow up, but I feel I have an important role to play. I can model good coping skills to the best of my ability. I can share my own feelings and how I deal with them. I can talk about the times I’ve made mistakes, or when I’ve been afraid or anxious and how I handled it. I can teach them about boundaries.
We do a lot of talking. I’ve already had a conversation with my eldest child, who is now ten, about suicide. You might think that’s early, but given the news yesterday of a ten-year-old girl in Illinois who killed herself because she was bullied, I’m glad I did it.
There is so much talk of nutrition and exercise, vaccines and the like, and I sometimes wonder why we don’t talk more about resilience and self-reflection. People say if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. I say if you don’t have good mental health, you don’t have your health.
What do you do to try and raise emotionally healthy children? I’d love to know. Please share your thoughts and ideas!!
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Million Moms Challenge. The opinions and text are all mine. Contest runs November 14 to December 18, 2011. A random winner will be announced by December 20, 2011.