mental health counselling sussex

How to Help Children Understand a Parent’s Depression

by | Nov 30, 2020

Many parents experience depression. As if living with depressive episodes was not enough, recognising its effect on your children can be very difficult.

Studies have shown that children of depressed parents can be at risk of developing depression but also of poor physical health, problems bonding, anxiety, low self-esteem and aggressive behaviour.

Many factors determine the severity of any potential issues that a child may face later in life. These factors can include the closeness of the relationship between the parent and the child, and notably, how quickly a parent can recover from depressive episodes.

There are some essential things you can do to help your child understand and cope with episodes of depression in the family. While it will be difficult, children manage unusually well if their parent is honest in an age-appropriate way.

Below are some things children of depressed parents need to hear.

It is not your fault

For children or even young adults, the world revolves around them. Children of depressed parents will naturally assume that they did something to make their parent sad and angry. It would help if you made it clear that what is going on for you is not their fault.

You are not responsible for taking care of me

Even if a child knows that they are not the cause of depression, they may naturally feel compelled to find a way to make their parent better. When nothing they do gets rid of the sadness, they could feel as though they have failed. It would help if you communicated that getting better is on you and not on them.

I love you

Make an effort to let your child know how much you love them regularly. It would help if you reassured them that your goal is to get well so you can take care of them. Also, it is essential to articulate that when you feel you cannot take care of their needs properly because of the depression, you will secure the supervision of another adult trusted by your child, who can offer this care. Be as specific about what this care looks like and where possible, include them in any decision making.

Children may feel guilty and confused for having complicated feelings towards their depressed parent. When their needs are not being met perhaps because of the illness, they will naturally feel anger, sadness and often resentment.

Find ways to let them know whatever they are feeling is okay, that you are there for them and think about helping them find outlets to express these feelings. 

If you are experiencing depression, the most important thing you can do to support your child is to take care of yourself and treat the depression. You are the most crucial person in your child’s life, so taking care of yourself is critical to their well being.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring support around coping with depression within family life, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you and explore how I can help.

I offer a 20 min free consultation call or zoom session. I am seeing my clients on-line and in-person from my office in Hove.

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