Q. My kids are bored. I get tired of hearing, “It’s so boring here at home.”Michael and Jennifer, who are 6 and 8, go to summer camp, but that’s for only a week and then they want me to keep them entertained. I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I seem to be somewhat depressed and have been depressed for a long time. I don’t sleep well and my energy is low, which makes it difficult to deal with the children’s high energy. I haven’t sought treatment for depression because I can still manage to get through the day and do what I have to do. How can I deal with these kids for the rest of the summer?
A. You need to take care of yourself as well as your children. Your mental health affects your children. It’s been suggested that children of depressed mothers often don’t do as well in school as they could if their mother were not depressed. Perhaps the depressed mother—without realizing it—models a lack of enthusiasm, motivation, creativity and enjoyment that are helpful in doing one’s best in school and in life. Whether this is true or not, I think you will enjoy mothering more if you deal with your mood. You’ve described having a more depressed mood than you would like for some time. You may have what we used to call Dysthymia, a diagnosis that required feeling depressed for at least two years, more days than not, plus some additional symptoms. Dysthymia has been replaced in the new diagnostic manual DSM5 by the diagnosis of Persistent Depressive Disorder. In addition to a lower than normal mood for two years or more, a person with this diagnosis has to experience two or more additional symptoms such as appetite or sleep disturbance, low energy, fatigue or poor concentration. You would most likely benefit from working with a mental health nurse practitioner or psychiatrist and therapist. With newer medication and/or therapy, you could see your mood, energy and sleep improve.
In planning activities for your children, I’d suggest something like taking a picnic and a good book to the park or a pool. The fresh air and sunshine will help elevate your mood, and you can take it easy while your kids play and burn off energy. The food trailer court on Texas Hwy. 360 has a lot of safe space for kids to run and play. This is also true of Central Market on North Lamar. Of course, it goes without saying that you still have to keep an eye on the children, but hopefully you can do it mainly from your chair. You could also take your kids for a nature walk, collecting leaves and identifying trees. Exercise helps boost one’s mood. I suspect your kids will walk at least three miles for each one you walk. They tend to run ahead and then run back to you and repeat this so again, they burn energy.
For quiet activities at home, I suggest you Google “activity books by grade.”You will find a number of activity books for each grade the children are in (or moving to in the fall). Some of the books provide a wide variety of fun and creative activities, while others are focused on developing specific skills. These activity books will provide good age-appropriate activities for your children to keep them from being bored and help them develop creative skills. One of my favorite teachers suggested that boredom often involves a lack of knowledge of how to create something fun to do. If your children need help with activities, you might consider hiring a teenager from the neighborhood to supervise their activities, encouraging them to do as much on their own as possible and then guiding them in their activities a couple of hours a day. Also, don’t forget to check the Austin Family calendar of events.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.
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