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Hello all. *sigh* this is a difficult topic for me to broach but I would appreciate your input. We have 3 children, current ages 8 (almost 9), 6 and 3. After our third child I suffered a very severe post-natal depression that lasted a very long time. I finally started on anti-depressants last spring when my youngest was about 20 months. Now I am off the medication and close to 80-90% better. The last component for me will be when I can find the time to exercise again and the youngest is weaned.

As a result of my depression my relationship with my eldest child deteriorated from being very, very close and happy. I was irritable, never smiled and to my everlasting shame picked on her and belittled her. There was an incident where I really frightened her with my anger. It was horrible - for both of us.

Now our relationship is much much much better and I go out of my way to build her up and encourage her, kiss her and hug her.

That whole period however seems to have brought out her fragility. A trait in myself and my father. She is very intelligent, has lots of friends and is very organized and self-motivated. She is also very prone to being knocked back and takes criticism very hard. This is I'm sure just part of who she is but I feel guilt in that my depression made her more vulnerable than she would have been otherwise.

Do you have any good ideas of how I can keep building up her self-esteem and strength after I knocked her down so hard?


We are Catholic and my faith is very important to me so if there is something you can add from a spiritual perspective I would appreciate that too.
 

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First, (((hugs))) to you for coming through such a difficult situation. It sounds like it went on for a while, so it will take time for everyone to heal, including your dd.

It's a little difficult to speak in general terms, without knowing exactly what situations upset your dd, but here goes-

There are a couple of things that I think are important for helping children to become resilient. I think it helps if they learn to achieve some perspective when things don't turn out as expected. First, acknowledge her feelings - disappointment or anger or hurt - and reflect them back to her, e.g. "You seem to be feeling...". It's important that you don't minimize or ignore her distress, otherwise she will think you don't get it and is unlikely to listen to anything else you have to say.

Then, help her to see that the situation isn't the end of the world - did any good things happen? Try to get her to identify some things that have worked out or that she likes.

Then ask her what might have made a difference. First, try to frame it in neutral terms - not what she could have done differently, but what might have created a different result. Then ask what she could do to make it happen.

Help her set reasonable goals. Praise her effort, a willingness to experiment and try new things, and incremental improvements, rather than any single end-result, so that she starts focussing on manageable changes rather than insurmountable challenges.

Humour helps a lot - but a healthy good-natured humour, not a teasing, belittling kind.

From a spiritual perspective? That's a little hard for me - not a regular church-going kind of Protestant. I might focus on discussions that God doesn't expect humans to be perfect and loves everyone no matter what. God just asks humans to try. I'm not sure that's exactly what you were looking for - I hope it helps though.

I'd also suggest that you try to be a little gentle with yourself. Even without a history of illness, every parent will have an unintended influence on their child - and may have to repair/adjust/moderate at some point. Anyone who doesn't think so is either not being honest with themselves or is naive. It's all part of parenting.

Best wishes.
 

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I had postpartum depression with both my kids, so I understand how hard that is.

I've been thinking a lot about sensitive kids and about building capacity for resilience because that's something we need to work on with both of our kids.

The one conclusion that I've come to through the reading I've done is that there the key thing is to be unconditionally loved and to have a deep, abiding connection with your parents. If you have that, you can weather a lot of storms. Connection takes time. Spending time every day, one-on-one with your daughter would be my first recommendation.

One of my favorite books is: The Challenging Child. This book is intended for kids with more 'serious' problems than your dd seems to have, but I think the recipe for helping a child can be applied to many, many children to their benefit. Why wait until there's a crisis? There's a chapter in there on the Highly Sensitive Child that might work for you. One of the reasons I love this book is because it focuses on connection. The 'program' they set up requires that mom and dad spend 30 minutes a day connecting with their child before any sort of interventions/problem solving techniques are implemented. Without connection, there can be no learning.

Another good book is "The Five Love Languages of Children". This has some Biblical quotes and references, but it's not really a religious book, if that makes any sense.

I'm currently reading a book called "Raising Your Children So They Turn Out Right" by Tim Kimmel. He's written a lot on parenting. He's a bit more 'fundamentalist' than I was raised, but it's not over the top. What I've read so far is very consistent with AP (I'm about 1/3 of the way in). He's got a book called "Grace-Based Parenting" that I'm going to read next.

Finally, a word of caution: keep a firm watch on your mental state, because as you've discovered, you can't be a good parent if you aren't healthy yourself. You were on antidepressants for a relatively short time, which worries the budding PPD advocate in me. Most women need 12 months or more. I'm weaning off my antidepressants after 5 years. I know that's longer than most women need, but after my second round of PPD, I was taking absolutely no chances.
 

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Good for you, mama. Like Lynn, I have been there too, and I saw the effects on my eldest. I didn't realize it until I read Don't Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor, after we got a dog last year. That doesn't make sense, I know, but she is the one who invented clicker training, she is a dolphin trainer - and they can only be trained positively, by rewards. But she also talks about the results of punishment - and I saw my eldest.
I realized that I had "punished" her simply by how I was when I was depressed - she is that sensitive.
If you can fit it in, read this book, even if you never have a dog ever. It basically is about shaping behavior, any behavior, of anyone. Your child, your mailman, your boss, your chickens, yourself. Amazing book.

But I also learned a lot from another book Lynn mentioned, The 5 Love Languages. Basically, for anyone to feel loved, you have to show it in a way that matters to them. So for instance, my DH communicates love in Acts of Service - he rarely says the words I Love You, but I know that he tells me every day by what he does. When he does a load of laundry, empties the dishwasher, washes my car, he is telling me. And I could say I Love You all day to him, but hearing the words doesn't make him feel loved; my making his favorite meatloaf makes him feel loved. See?
So I used that to build my relationship with my eldest DD. She loves words, being told that she is important, that I am proud of her, that she is beautiful, smart, and a joy to have around, and details of WHY those things are true. When I thank her for doing something, when I listen to her, those are things that really reach her and make her feel loved. Conversely, that is why she was so damaged when I would yell - because words carry so much weight with her.

I also like another book, by Ross Campbell, called How to Really Love your Child. It's not really deep or complicated, but it was a real help to me.

You mention your faith - another book you may want to look into is Stormy Omartian's The Power of a Praying Parent. I have learned a lot from this woman, and perhaps it would be helpful for you as well.

I feel sure you will rebuild your relationship with her, and help her regain her balance and confidence. Just having the courage to ask for help, and making this a priority, shows how much you care. Try to be gentle with yourself, too - you didn't ask for this illness, and it is not your fault.

Best wishes to you and your family.
 
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