The Day I Gave My Daughter a Mental Health Tool and She Handed it Back

If you sometimes think any advice you give your child goes in one ear and out the other, think again.
Mental Health Article Jan2023 2

PHOTO BY BREA SCHMIDT

“Hey, Mom?” 

My 11-year-old daughter’s words hit the air while I was planting a longer-than-normal goodnight kiss on her forehead. 

After a full day of back-to-back meetings, countless letters typed on a screen, multiple business proposals made, various event details finalized and too many extra minutes given on the iPad for the kids to allow me to get it all done … it was the first calm moment for me in my working-mom day. 

And it was also the first non-distracted moment I had with her. 

And I needed it.

Every ounce of it.

All the silence. All the connection with her. All the extra seconds to just BE.

All the opportunity for my working mom guilt to shed its frustration that I hadn’t been as present as I wanted to be with her that day. 

So I held on to that forehead kiss a little longer… with my pause and reflection trying to fight off any mental-to-do-list creating that my anxiety was trying to orchestrate. 

And then her words rang out. 

Just two of them, but said in a tone that took me out of self-reflect mode, and into my parent-readiness one. 

Because there was something about that “Hey, Mom” that made me feel like something big was coming. And with kids who seem to use bedtime as their chance to ask heavy questions about the world or tell me something important — I knew I had to be prepared.

“What is it, honey?” I asked.

 “Well,” she said, “it seems like you’ve had a tough day, so I wanted to see if you wanted to take a couple of deep breaths together?”

 Her sincerity melted my heart, and I held back tears as I felt her words — ones that I had said to HER so many times in her own moments of overwhelm — suddenly erase my own stress.

 I moved a piece of hair away from her eyes.

 “I’d love that.”

 We touched our foreheads and after the first breath she kindly reminded me that I was rushing —  and gave me an example of how a slower breath would make it “work better.”

 I smiled

And we did more breaths.

(Slowly this time.)

 And gosh did I need them.

Every ounce of them.

All the silence, all the connection and all the extra seconds of BEING that came with them.

 When we were done we opened our eyes and smiled at each other.

 “Thanks for your love, honey,” I said.

 “It’s OK to have bad days sometimes, Mom,” she said. “You just have to remember to breathe through them.”

 I winked and left one last kiss on that forehead before walking down the hall with a dozen emotions in tow.

 First I felt guilty that I was wearing my stress so openly that she had noticed it.  On top of that? A hint of sadness that our best moment together that day wasn’t kicking a soccer ball around or teaching her how to make something new in the kitchen or playing cards on the living room floor.

 I knew if I let the guilt and sadness marinate, they would transform into a negativity spiral that wouldn’t lead to anything good.

 I knew I had to reframe.

 So I went to my room and took another deep breath.  

And instead of letting the guilt of the moment engulf me, I chose to thank the moment. 

 I thanked it for its beautiful evidence that the work I’m doing to empower my daughter with the tools she needs when she’s struggling is impacting her enough that she wanted to share them back with me.

 I thanked it for its reminder that I still have some work to do on creating more solid boundaries in my work-life so I can find more joy and less stress.

 I thanked it for reminding me I’m human, and that I’m teaching my kids it’s OK to be, too.

 And I made a commitment … to myself and in honor of my girl’s empathetic gesture… to have a new routine next time stress shows up in the midst of a busy day.

 “Hey, Mom,” I’ll say to myself.

 “Take some deep breaths.

And FEEL them.

Every ounce of them.  

All the silence, connection and extra seconds of BEING that come with them.

And remember … it’s OK to have bad days sometimes …

 You just have to remember to breathe through them.”


Brea Schmidt Bio Pic 1

PHOTO: GOSSBOSS PHOTOGRAPHY

Brea Schmidt is a sought-after keynote speaker, social media influencer and consultant and Iris-Award-nominated writer who creates space for raw conversation about our approach to self care and mental health. You can check out her social media community The Thinking Branch on Facebook and Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn.  

Categories: BeWell