A mother’s relationship with her child is one of the purest and most unconditional ones. Still, if a child says, “My mother is negative and depressing”, it needs to be taken seriously.
In this modern age, when familial ties are loosening and families are disintegrating, this is to be expected and not inconceivable. In fact, many surveys suggest that 1 in 5 parents suffer from severe cases of parental depression. Maternal depression places the child in a precarious and vulnerable position.
Most parents consider their child as too young to understand the troubles they are facing and try to hide their depression from them. However, children are sensitive and perceptive enough to notice such changes in their parents, especially their mothers, as children tend to be more attached to them.
Usually, children can recognize maternal depression without any training or tools. Often they do this by comparing their mother’s behavior with that of their friends’ mothers. Though they may go wrong with this method, they are spot-on in most instances.
This amateur psychoanalysis by children may lead to skirmishes and misunderstandings between the two. As a child, you can avoid this by improving communication and not rushing to conclusions. Dealing with negative parents is never easy.
You can also look out for signs to recognize that your mother is indeed depressed and has negative behavior. Read on to learn about depressive symptoms in mothers and how to handle such a situation.
4 Signs that your mother is negative and depressing
Let’s look at some of the easy-to-spot signs that your mother is suffering from depression and it is not a figment of your hyperactive imagination. Depressive symptoms are unique and not hard to identify.
1. She wants the focus on herself
Of late, have you noticed how your mother is using every opportunity to be the center of attention? Has this overwhelming need for attention led to awkward or embarrassing situations?
If this is a new development, it can be a sign of depression and negative behavior in your mother. Psychologists accept that yearning for attention is an approach used by people suffering from depression and loneliness.
You will find her desperately trying to garner attention at the gathering, even if the occasion is to celebrate or honor someone else. Such as your birthday party or the farewell party for a colleague.
2. She is cynical and pessimistic
In every conversation with your mother, you find yourself disagreeing with her – you taking the positive approach and she, being a negative parent. She will twist every fact to suit her way of thinking. When your mother constantly complains about you, it can be highly frustrating for you.
You will feel that all she can think of is how things can go wrong in your life. And she uses this to prevent you from attempting new things and even enjoy your life. It is as if she picks and chooses the negative events from the past to prove her point of view.
3. She is always intruding in your life
She doesn’t recognize boundaries in your relationship and interferes in your life more than necessary. Instead of letting you chart your own path and be more independent, she tries her best to keep you under her wings.
Her unhealthy interference in your life coupled with her negative behavior and attitude can be too much for you to handle. She will comment, judge, and interfere in every aspect of your life including lifestyle, education, career, and choice of life partner.
4. She doesn’t respect your sentiments
Raising a child involves attending to their physical and emotional needs. Your mother may be meeting all your physical needs but if she is falling short in offering your emotional support and guidance, it can be hard for you, as a child.
Does your mother notice that you are stressed or upset? Does she ever ask you whether you are okay and listen to your answer? Do you think your mother criticizes everything you do? When you are feeling low, do you get any emotional support from her? If the answer is “no” to these questions, she is not fulfilling her obligations as a parent. The reason for this can be that she is depressed.
How to change your mother’s negative and depressive behavior?
If you are 100% sure that your mother is depressed, you may feel overwhelmed by it all, especially if you are too young and there is no one else to turn to. If help is available, don’t hesitate to seek help.
At the same time, you can do certain things to improve the situation for your mother. As long as you are capable of understanding and assessing the situation, you can make it easier for your mom.
Here are a few simple steps you may adopt to help your mom shake off her depression. You can help her transform from a negative parent to a positive one.
1. Applaud when she is doing well
As your toxic mother is not in touch with reality and is unable to process what is happening in the right way, you can offer your help by making it clear when she is right. Clearly, she is not in a mental state to distinguish right from wrong. When you approve or praise her, it will help her in regaining her bearings.
You will usually find her oscillating between optimistic and pessimistic outlooks without any rhyme or reason. Use the happy times to compliment her for something she did right. Or you can just tell her that it is so nice to see her happy.
Your approval will help her realize that what she did is good and can be repeated. The more she repeats her good behavior, you can get her further away from negative behavior and maternal depression.
2. Set and enforce boundaries
This is easier said than done, especially for a child who is dependent on adults for sustenance. However, setting boundaries is important in any relationship, including that of a mother and child. As the child grows older, the boundaries also need to be revised.
Boundaries are all the more important when your mom is disregarding your privacy and interfering in your life. Setting boundaries with toxic parent, making her aware of them, and enforcing them differ from person to person. You should be able to find a non-confrontational way to make it happen.
When your mom is displaying extreme negative behavior and high levels of maternal depression, it is best that you keep your distance from her. As a child, you can do only so much. The best you can do at this stage is to inform someone trustworthy among family members who can take over the responsibility.
Related: How to Deal with Family Members that Disrespect You
3. Spend time with her
Communication is the key to the success and health of any relationship. Spending more time with your mom and improving your communication skills can help prevent your mom’s mental health from deteriorating further.
The root cause of negative behavior and depression in your mother maybe something else, but you can make it better with good communication. Just the feeling that someone understands her is immensely helpful to a depressed mother. Moreover, if you are moving away from your mom at this time, it can end up damaging your relationship permanently.
Help her around the home, plan fun activities together, or just be there for her. Make her aware that you are there for her no matter what. This can make a world of difference to her.
4. Learn to communicate well
Communicating effectively doesn’t mean you should be direct, candid, blunt, and rude. There are many ways to express the same fact. Be kinder, positive, and strategic in your approach with her, as you need to remember that she is already suffering and piling it on is not going to help.
Though what you are saying is true, you cannot tell her to her face that she is a negative parent and she is not taking care of you or making you feel insecure. If you do that, it will end up worsening the situation for her and damage your relationship irrevocably.
Instead, go about saying the same thing in a roundabout way, taking care not to hurt her feelings or make her feel offended. Give it to her in small doses. Be patient with her and give her enough time to process your suggestions. Remember that despite her behavior problems, she is still your mother and give her respect for that. Take care not to give her ultimatums or deadlines.
5. Try to figure out the source of the problem
There must be a reason for her negative behavior. Within your capacity, you may dig around and try to find why she is depressed. The reason may be a recent one or an old one. Armed with the information, you can approach her with caution. Again, don’t be blunt in your approach. With kindness and understanding, you may succeed in getting her out of her negative state in due course.
6. Get professional help
As a child, you have limitations on how much you can help your mom get over her depression. In case you are not finding success, don’t blame yourself. You may seek help from people you can trust among the family members and friends circle. In case this is also not showing any results, you should get help from a mental health care provider.
Your mom may not appreciate that you sought professional help. But if the going is getting tougher for you, you are justified in taking that step. Don’t worry too much about your mother’s reaction. When she will get better, she will understand why you did what you did.
7. Take care of yourself
Last but not least is paying attention to your own mental health. When the entire focus is on your mom and her behavior problems, everyone, including you, may neglect your needs and wants. If your mom is unable to give you warmth and security, find someone who can. You cannot afford to fall apart.
Because of her behavior problems and mental health issues, your toxic mother may be mean and rude to you. If you can, ignore the words and move on. Or else, you can find someone to talk to and help you deal with the hostility. Whichever way, don’t allow your mother’s words to bother you or get to you.
Whenever the chips are low, remind yourself of all the wonderful things your mother has done for you and the beautiful moments you have shared. Despite her present predicament, you should know that she loves you and cares for you.
Depressed mothers can be a handful when they are suffering from behavior problems and mental health issues. As a child, it can be too much for you to deal with the toxic environment at home at times. But never for a moment question her intentions or her love for you.
Being the saner of the two, you need to remember that your mom’s rude and negative behavior doesn’t deserve reciprocity from you. With patience, perseverance, and understanding, you can bring back the loving and giving mother in her.