Mom Challenges: Coping with Baby Blues, Kids & Teens
Life is not easy road. An estimated 59 million people sought therapeutic services last year. This number is probably even on the low side as many are still embarrassed to admit they sought help. However, this stigma is shifting, as it should be. Adults and kids of all ages can often benefit from an objective point of view and open discussion without fear of judgment that a therapist can provide.
As moms, we know — and say it all the time – our kids are “growing up” faster than ever before. From higher expectations for their performance in school and sports to the overwhelming presence of social media, it’s getting more and more difficult to just be a kid and causing higher levels of anxiety and depression. Not to mention they are dealing with life’s challenges and transitions that are inevitable, from divorce and the loss of loved ones to moving and stressful family dynamics.
In addition to issues with your kids, being a mom comes with other stresses and challenges too. We often push our own needs to the side and label ourselves “bad moms” if we are not always putting our children first. Guilty! And, often other moms criticize moms for not handling things the way they would. We’re all trying to be “supermoms” and it’s just not healthy. Did you see the movie Bad Moms? We haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Flat-out hilarious. But, putting the comedy aside, the movie raises issues that are real. Moms need to support each other vs. being competitive and tearing each other down. Then, there’s the behind-the-scenes issue of postpartum depression… moms are often embarrassed to admit they’re dealing with it. But it’s all too real and, depending on the severity, it can affect not only the mom adversely, but also the health and welfare of their baby. Thankfully, this issue is starting to be discussed more openly, and if your family doesn’t understand, there are other ways to get support.
Does any of the above sound familiar? We talked with Jade Bruno of The Couch & Beyond to get her advice. Jade is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) in Scottsdale, Arizona and specializes in working with mom “issues” and kids of all ages, as well as families and parents in general.
Above Photo: Jacqueline Hanna Photography
MSL: How does a mom know if she has postpartum depression to the point where she should seek help?
Having a baby is stressful — no matter how much you’ve looked forward to it or how much you love your child. Considering the sleep deprivation, lack of time for yourself and all the new responsibilities, it’s no surprise a lot of moms feel like they are on a emotional rollercoaster. The baby blues are perfectly normal, but if your symptoms don’t resolve in a few weeks or seem to get worse, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. If this is case, it’s a good idea to reach out for help to a trained therapist during this time for extra support and to determine what steps could be helpful for you and your family members.
MSL: What if a mom doesn’t have the support she needs to get help (family understanding, childcare, financial)?
There are many great resources in the Valley, including workshops and support groups for both moms and dads to help understand the transition to parenthood, as well as how to support your partner through this process. A therapist can also help work with the family members as a whole to provide education and support on this challenging and exciting time in your lives. (You may also want to check with your local hospital where you gave birth to your little one for list of workshops and support groups. They may have even sent you home with this information in your release packet.)
MSL: Moms are inevitably stretched thin and often supporting everyone’s needs, from their kids and husband to their extended family, all while trying to get a little quality time and keep up friendships to maintain their sanity. Any advice?
This juggling act is all too familiar with new moms and can be what typically leads to a sense of loss of purpose or identity. My biggest piece of advice to new moms struggling to keep up is to allow yourself permission to reach out to others for support. You’d be surprised that even the moms who may seem to have it together perfectly may be suffering on the inside, and we can learn so much from each other. Maintaining regular date nights with your partner, happy hours with girlfriends or even a day for rest and relaxation can help a new mom feel more like herself.
MSL: Your thoughts on dealing with difficult supermoms?
“Supermom syndrome” is real and exhausting! If you know someone or are a supermom yourself, you know how difficult it can be to maintain. Trying to be a supermom can often result in physical and emotional suffering, as well as stress-related conditions. Finding a balance and prioritizing things that are truly important, maintaining your health and living in the moment are a few survival skills to help make it through the years until your kids are older and life can settle down a bit.
Jade and her husband Bobby with their cute nephews.
MSL: Moms are constantly trying to strike the right balance of pushing their kids to do well and be responsible, while still letting them have fun and simply “be kids.” What’s the best way to handle this?
Having expectations of our children is healthy and necessary, but being unrealistic can often lead our children to perfectionist behaviors and an uneasy feeling of never measuring up. Allowing our children the opportunity to play, use their imagination and have fun, while still having structure and limits, will help foster a secure and safe connection with your children.
MSL: Teens (and even tweens) can be so difficult to connect with and understand… ideas?
Sometimes it is comforting just knowing that it is normal and developmentally appropriate for teens and tweens to begin pulling away from parents and gaining more independence. With that said, parents can continue to dine together with their teen, create rituals (silly handshakes, morning/ nighttime text, etc.), engage in shared interests, and welcome their friendships; these can all help strengthen the connection with your teen.
MSL: What are signs of depression we should be watching for? How do we know if our child needs help?
One in five teens will have depression at some point through adolescence, so knowing how to identify some of the symptoms is very helpful. Your teen may be depressed if they are disinterested in socializing with people or activities they used to enjoy, sleeping and eating more or less than normal, more sensitive to criticism and frequent irritability with sudden bursts of anger. If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist who can help work through this serious problem with your teen and family.
MSL: Social media poses a very real and growing danger for kids. What are some ways we can help protect our children?
In this digital world, I always encourage parents to use and stay up on all the social media sites that their children are on. Make sure you are “friends” or “following” your children on these sites so you can monitor the information to and from their pages. Always have open communication about the dangers of social media and let your teen know they can share with you in the same way. Establishing boundaries and rules surrounding social media, as well as the amount of time spent on these sites, is important.
MSL: Advice on how to talk with kids about a loved one (family member, friend or pet) who has passed away?
When a loved one dies, children show their grief in many different ways. How children cope with the loss depends on things like the age of the child, how close they felt to the person or animal that died, and the support they receive. It is always recommended to use clear, simple words when talking about a death to a child. For example: “I have some sad news to tell you. Grandma died today.” Pause and give your child a moment to take in your words. Listen and comfort your child however they respond. Encourage your child to say what they are thinking and feeling in the days and weeks to come following the loss. Explain how the person’s death may affect the child’s life. For example: “Aunt Terry will pick you up from school like Grandma used to.” This will help settle any fears your child may be having following the death. It’s important to give your child and family members time to heal from the loss, which will happen over time. The bottom line — don’t be hesitant to ask for help!
For more information on Jade and her services, visit www.thecouchandbeyond.com or call 480-622-3867.