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When your children ask about your medication...


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What do you say when your kids see you taking your meds, or see your bottle of meds, and ask "Mom/Dad, what are these for? Why do you take these?"

 

I don't have kids but I was wondering this the other day. My mother was so upset when my school counselor phoned her and told her that she though I needed medical attention for my depression. It took her years to accept the fact that I needed medication and she tried to hide it and hated it when I was open to everyone about it. She thought she failed as a parent. So I was thinking, how do you explain to your child that you have a mental illness like depression or anxiety? Or any MI really? My worry would be that my child would think it was their fault that Mommy is sad. How do they understand that Mommy is sad all the time for no reason, and that they don't have to worry about this?

 

If I have kids someday this is inevitably going to come up. I think it's wrong to hide it, I like to be open about it. but I don't want to put any unnessary burden or anxiety on my kids either. Edit: Also, I don't want to give them the impression that drugs are a treatment for teenage angst either. I'm definetly not anti-med, but I wouldn't want my openness about taking medication for depression lead to them being more open about trying illegal drugs.

Edited by CrazyFail1
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Kids can see that you have depression or anxiety or mood swings or are mentally ill in some other way.  You can't hide it from them.  Your behavior and moods can be scary, they don't understand it, they worry about you, and they think it is their fault, or may have other theories that they don't tell you.  (I know that when I was a kid, I had a lot of theories about adult behavior that I never told anyone.)

 

My pdoc and two different therapists have told me that kids do better when you tell them some facts about your MI and about the meds.   If you present it as a medical illness, and explain that you are taking medication to treat that illness, it helps them understand that it isn't their fault.  They can also feel more secure that their parent is taking care of things, has some control over the situation, and that the illness can be treated and it can get better.

 

edited to add:  I also explained to them about my therapist and DBT classes, because I was taking evening classes and they knew I was always gone one night a week, so I explained that the classes were for learning better skills for dealing with emotions and times that I get upset.  I didn't imply that there was anything wrong with me, I just explained it in a positive way, that "everyone can use better skills for dealing with difficult moments in life," and they can really relate to that!  Actually my older kid wanted to learn skills too, so he is doing a DBT for kids program now.

Edited by tamagotchi
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There was no big reveal for my kids.  Mommy was always different from the other mommies.  My mom (their grammy) would take meds all the time in front of them.  It wasn't for mental problems, though it probably should have been!  When my son asked we were honest with him.  It was no big deal for either of them.

 

They did think they had the special mommy.  They told everyone.   That took some explaining. 

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This is roughly what a friend of mine said to her kids after she was diagnosed. They were both under 10 at the time. She said everyone has a chemical soup in their brain (I know, I know, this is for little kids). But some people are missing some of the soup ingredients that most people have, and they get sick (or sad, happy, whatever). That is what happened to me. I take medications to try to replace the ingredients I am missing. Some of them work well, but not as well as the "real" ingredient. Some work just as well. Some don't work at all. I have to take/keep trying different meds, because it is hard to find the right ingredient to fix my brain soup.

 

Then she went on to tell them that sometimes she was grumpy or sad for a long time, but it was because of her illness, never because of anything they do, ever.

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I haven't run into this yet with my niece and nephews asking me yet.  They don't see the meds I take when visiting with them.  But I know the day will come, and I think at this point I would keep it simple say that everyone's brain is different, and some people need medications, and some don't. 

 

When one of the meds was giving me a side effect of a tremor (that even I couldn't see/feel, but apparently could be felt when I helped them do something), and they asked why I was shaking.  I said idk why, some people do and some people don't, and they were ok with that and never asked about it again.

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We've explained it various ways to kiddo over the years and one time while I was in the hospital and he was staying with our friends while hubby was at work, he said to another friend of ours who was over (an adult), "You know how sometimes my mom's mood is up and down? Well this time it was like this (wild up and down motions to emphasize I was all over the place)". He hasn't asked much about meds but knows that sometimes mom gets sad and that my meds help keep me more...even...

 

He's a really accepting kid, big heart, understanding, supportive, etc. I'm lucky to have him.

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