Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Conversations with My Daughter

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Everytime I look at my daughter's  cheeky smile, hear her laugh so hard she hiccups, I am so greatful for her. She was both a miracle and a gift.

The official support web-site for Children of Parents With a Mental Illness (COPMI) suggests, rather strongly, that parents should tell the truth as age-appropriately as you can.

“Children are incredibly perceptive and many can accurately describe changes connected to their parent’s illness (despite often well-intentioned efforts to keep them hidden).’

COPMI recommends you be straightforward with children and “as honest as possible without scaring them with too many details. If you don’t tell them the truth they will make up their own reason for what is happening as most kids have very vivid imaginations.”

I know that Lilly has been confused by the different story her father has told her; that we have separated because we can’t stop fighting.  Now that things are calmer and his outward behaviour is back to normal, she’s chosen to attach herself his version because that one means a happy ending for her; ‘no longer fighting – mummy and daddy will get back together’.

So I’ve had my work cut out for me. De-briefing her on an almost weekly basis. But as the experts say, it’s on ongoing process, messages need to be reinforced as the child further matures and tries to come to terms with the upheaval.

I’ve always told her what was suggested for her age: that Daddy was not well and he couldn’t help feeling quite sad all the time. Then the medicine the doctors gave him made him happy again but after a while it made him behave strangely and sometimes hurtfully. I explain as well as I can that while he was being strange and angry that he broke my heart and I haven’t been able to mend it. I tell her over and over that it’s not his fault, but sometimes things happen that aren’t your fault and you can’t change them back.

So this morning over breakfast this discussion started again.  It went something like this:

‘You and daddy are good friends now so you can be together again!’

‘It seems like that my darling, but my heart is still broken.’

‘Well Daddy can fix it again!’

‘Unfortunately sweetie,  Daddy lost my trust when he broke my heart and I can’t find that anymore – you just can’t fix a broken heart if your trust is gone.’

‘Oh. You never said anything about your broken trust before..hmmm.’

She plays with one of the kitten’s toys for a bit - its a long bendy stick with feathers and ribbons on one end.  I can almost hear her brain churning over this new piece of the puzzle.

‘Then you can just marry someone else!!’ she grins at me waving the Cat’s toy in the air.

‘Really?’ ‘how about Thor?’ I joke

'YES!' She cheers.We're both huge Hemsworth fans.

‘Oh but he’s in love with Jane Foster..’

She frowns, then her face brightens: ‘Alright, the first person who is nice to you!’

I’m flipping pancakes. Now I'm trying to keep them off the floor.   

‘Mummy you should marry the first person who is nice to you!' 'And we'll just cross our fingers!’

“Cross our fingers?’

She nods emphatically; ‘That he stays that way!’

I know she’s ok about these discussions when she speaks and every phrase sounds to end with an exclamation mark.
She also giggles over her own cleverness.

I love this child more every day and I never would have thought that possible. But what we are going through together has only brought us closer and added another dimension, another level on how we connect.

COPMI is a great resource for mental health issues in families, they have a wealth of downloadable pamphlets filled with practical advice and guidance.  

Tips for talking with children is great help and covers age specific suggestions.

Examples of talking with children  contains real-life stories that are as beautiful as they are comforting to someone like me, thrown in at the deep end as I was.


  1. I hope you do find someone who is more than just nice to you - in time, when you are ready. Lilly sounds like the most beautiful soul - you are right, there are not many sounds more delightful than the real laugh of a child x

    1. Thanks Kirsty,
      Lilly is the most lovely nuturing little thing. I love when on rare occations that I have a melt-down, she makes me a 'warm' chocolate milk. She heats in the microwave for 10seconds only :0)
      She is the only reason I'm not a jibbering mess in a locked mental ward

  2. This is beautiful. I love the way children see the world. She is sharing a lot of light in your life and this is a wonderful thing, amongst the darkness of the adult world.

    Thank you for linking up to #thankfulthursday. It is lovely to have you here. xS

    1. Thanks Sarah, she is indeed. She was alittle light when she was born and she's been that way ever since.
      And Thank YOU for Thankful Thursday