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Why parents need to talk openly to their children about their mental illness struggle

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We don’t need to keep our mental health struggles a secret.

In fact, we should be talking to our children about them.

Because we need to make sure they know that our struggles are not their fault.

Unfortunately, we can’t keep our struggles completely separate from our children--especially if it's something we need to work on every day, like mental illness.

They hear and listen to the world around them. They pay attention, especially to their parents.

They’ve seen us have tearful meltdowns when we’re afraid or have had enough.

They’ve seen us burst into a rage-induced fit because we’re so full of anxiety.

They’ve seen us terrified when it comes to their safety. We’re afraid that they'll break and bruise. And sometimes, we push our fears on them. Our love for them keeps our anxiety nice and sharp.

They’ve seen the days where little things feel like the biggest failure.

And we’d rather talk openly about it, that mommy struggles at times because of how she was made, rather than have them grow up thinking they were somehow to blame.

So we will talk about why daddy has bad days.

We will talk about the medication mommy takes to help her feel better.

We will talk about how daddy copes and how he sometimes talks to a therapist.

We will do a lot of talking and feeling our feelings.

Our mental illness and overcoming different hurtles has profoundly shaped who we are. And we shouldn’t “protect” our children from those struggles---we should instead arm them with tools to cope if they struggle, too.

Yes, we’ll raise resilient children who will be able to move forward in the face of life’s challenges, just like mommy does.

And our children will be empathetic and take accountability. They'll know no one's perfect, and when they slip up, they'll apologize, learn, and give themselves grace and extend that same grace to others, just like daddy does.

Mental illness is a lifelong struggle, some days we’ll be great, but other days we’ll be down because parents are human, too.

And our children will always be our biggest motivation to keep fighting.

This post originally appeared on the author's Facebook. Her book "Living FULL: Winning My Battle with Eating Disorder" is available on Amazon:

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