I have talked to Pernilla who wants to live as openly as possible with what it is like to feel bad. Pernilla's children, soon 6 and 4, know that their mother has it tough for periods - Pernilla talks about it with the help of fairy tales and our emotional cards. By putting it on the level that works for them - in terms of age and development, she wants to create an environment where they themselves can express emotions and become empathic, emotionally smart individuals.
Pernilla is studying as a web communicator and I came into contact with her after she showed a movie she has made where she and the children use the emotional cards.
Hi Pernilla! We started talking when you published a very nice little movie you made about our emotional cards. As I understood it, you use the cards at home to more easily talk about emotions and what is difficult. Want to tell me more?
When I ask “How are you? Why did you do that? Is it something wrong? ", The answer is too often" I don't know ". It is difficult to put words into your feelings, you do not want to say that you were sad about something and be questioned. It is easier to wipe away with a "I do not know".
That's why I got stuck for the emotional card as soon as I saw them, it's a clear picture and a word. They don't even have to know what is standing, but they look at the picture and can say "so I feel". If they get stuck and do not want to talk, I can produce a card and say "Had this happened to me, I would have felt like this". When I show that I also have feelings, no matter how stupid it sounds, it feels like they understand that it's okay and can then tell you further. When we confirm the emotions we go through them "Where does it feel in the body when you are sad?". We always end by saying that it is perfectly okay to feel that way and we are proud that they shared.
Sometimes they are used for deep conversations about something that happened at school, and sometimes they show the card "angry" when I don't give them candy in the middle of the week.
You told me that you think it is important that the children know how the parents are doing, that they, for example, understand what it is like when a parent lives with mental illness or diagnosis. Want to tell us more about how you are open with your children?
Children understand much more than you think and definitely know when you hide something for them. Then of course it is important to adapt to the level of children. I would never tell the children that I have been suicidal and tried to commit suicide when I was younger.
I went into parenting with the hope that I would be "healthy", my life was so good. I tried to keep all the negative thoughts away, but it instead meant that I broke down more and more often. I got panic attacks in front of the children before they even turned one year. Of course, they are scared because they do not understand what is happening. I struggled and balanced everything as best I could with privacy, studies and jobs.
Somewhere there on the road I started to get tired of feeling like this. As a child I had been told that everyone is feeling bad, why is it so difficult for me? Then I decided to do a neuropsychiatric investigation. After a year I had been diagnosed
- Social Phobia
-Panic anxiety syndrome
-GAD (generalized anxiety disorder)
-dysthymia (chronic depression)
It was a relief to get the diagnoses, to understand how I worked and find tools to feel better. Being able to stop blaming myself because I was always weak, when I was really just forced to be stronger than I am.
Since I myself am quick to blame myself, I thought my children might work the same way. Many of my diagnoses are genetic. Then I decided that I had to explain to them how it is, I wanted to catch them early.
I started telling fairy tales that were about me and things I was through. I used other names and instead of diagnoses it was maybe monsters that just needed a hug. When I found your emotional cards, I felt it was a good tool to explain my feeling at the children's level. It became the first area of use, to be able to explain my feelings to the children. It was just a bonus that they also started communicating with them.
Do you feel that your approach to this collides with the rest of society? What do you think we can do more to make visible and normalize eg. mental illness?
Many people are actually surprised when I tell that the children know my diagnoses. I have told the children's educators that we are completely open with it, so it is no wonder if it comes to talk. I then feel that they get a little uncomfortable.
Nobody wants to feel bad, but many people do. Several are trying to get "us" with mental illness to feel better at ease, but it fails and reduces our feeling "it just sits in the head, it is not so really, everyone can have a bad day". Similar to saying that ADHD is a superpower, no, rather a disability (variety). You do not always have to find positive denominators in a bad situation. Sometimes it's just crap, to say the least, and we have to talk about that. Because if we don't talk about hard things. How should we teach the children deal with hard things?
Do you have tips for other adults living with children, who may be afraid to show how they feel? How can we get out of old ideas that we adults should "bite and be adults"?
Just as I mentioned earlier, children understand more than you think. Therefore, I think you should tell you how it is instead of the children letting your imagination go away. They may start to suspect that you are feeling bad because of them, that they have done something wrong or that you do not like them.
Mental illness is like any other diagnosis. The requirements I had on myself to control my panic attacks are really unreasonable. Had I had epilepsy, I would not have demanded to stop cramping. No one else had either.
Finally, I would like to point out that it is very important that you do not put responsibility for one's feeling on the children. I am careful to say that it is not the children's fault that I feel this way, that it is not their job to make sure I feel good. Without mom should contact her doctor, who helps mom great. Actually psychologist, but they understand the word "doctor" better.
Obviously the children want to help when mom is sad, but they should not take over my concern and think they can remove ill health. At the moment when I'm sad, they pick up to go to me, offer the best hugs and say I'm the best. The fear of destroying their childhood is being replaced more and more by the happiness of seeing that they have taught them something important in life. Empathy.
You will find Pernilla on Tiktok under the name @anxiousmilla where she makes videos about mental illness.
Emotional cards can help in conversations with children. Read more HERE