Explaining Depression To A Toddler

Yesterday I collapsed in a heap of tears of my kitchen floor. Yesterday my daughter was home, watching me as I cried. Yesterday my daughter asked, “is sad?” Yesterday, through my tears, I froze because yesterday I had to explain to my daughter mommy’s depression. Yesterday I had to try and tell a toddler what I still cannot tell adults.

How do you explain depression to a 2-year-old? Should you explain depression to a 2-year-old?

Last night I scoured the Internet for answers. Last night I scoured the Internet for age appropriate language on mental health, for an explanation I could offer. But in that moment “night” was too many hours away — the Internet was miles away — and it was just me and her. She wanted to hear me; she wanted to know what I had to say, and she wanted to know what was wrong. And it was in that moment I remembered an amazing conversation I had with several men and women on the subject of mental health:

“Mommy is sad because Mommy has a boo-boo.” I pointed to my head. “It’s not your fault. Mommy loves you. Mommy just hurts.”

I watched her little mind work. I saw her gaze shift to the side and then back to me. I watched her small pink lips purse as she struggled to find not the right words but any words. I wondered if it made sense. I wondered if I made sense.

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One thought on “Explaining Depression To A Toddler

  • May 17, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I think you’re doing it right.

    Please be as candid as you can bring yourself to be, as candid as you think she can understand, from the beginning.

    Because, you know, genetic factors. The less foreign it is off the start, the less it will mess with her if it pops up.

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