By Marli Naidoo
With depression as companion, it can regularly be a challenge just to get through the day. This is even more so when the sufferer is a parent who, like any other parent, only wants the best for his or her children.
Children of parents with depression run a higher risk of mental disorders and physical illnesses. Adult children of parents with depression suffer more with depression and anxiety and are more inclined to abuse alcohol and drugs.
It has been found that children with mothers who are depressed stand a bigger chance of struggling at academic level and display more behavioural problems. When a mother’s depression is serious and long-lasting, lagging behind in development and cognitive problems can be present in these children on a regular basis.
Signs of depression can usually be seen specifically in the parenting role. Reactions to young children’s non-verbal communication is usually inappropriate. Some parents with depression neglect their children and are emotionally unavailable, while others are obtrusive and over-involved. What this apparent opposite behaviour has in common is that both don’t consider the child’s wishes or needs. Children can also often be late for school or simply don’t turn up. This can be ascribed to the depressed parent’s inability to be organised, or a lack of energy.
Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad. The good news is that if you should get help your children will also do better. 75%-85% of parents who receive treatment show improvement. Treatment includes talk therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy and/or the use of medication.
Find professional help that is parent-specific. A psychologist can help you to understand typical children’s behaviour, how your unique symptoms can influence that behaviour and how you can then develop a parenting style that will work best for all of you.
Get help for your child. A neutral, trained adult can assist your child and alleviate a lot of the stress that he/she is experiencing. A therapist can explain to him/her what depression is, and how to handle it effectively when it affects your relationship. This therapy can help to improve your child’s behavioural and emotional problems.
Find joy in the small things. In times when you feel depressed, it can be very difficult to live in the present and to appreciate the moment. Children, however, always live in the moment. Enjoying short but focused minutes together, can work wonders for your relationship. Share an ice-cream, play a board game, go for a walk.
You will find that parenthood becomes easier when you focus on getting well, and your family begins to benefit from the healthier, more positive environment.
Reid Health: https://www.reidhealth.org/blog/what-to-do-about-parental-depression
Yale Medicine: https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/how-parental-depression-affects-child