Parenting can be as amazing as it is challenging; there are times when we may struggle with the momentum of it all. This is entirely normal as we balance the chaos and the calm of family life.
There may come a time when the overwhelm is more than trying to figure out how to do it all. Parental depression is a real difficulty with postnatal depression affecting both Mums and Dads within the first year of birth and possibly outstaying its welcome. Depression is a hidden illness and a silent affliction with many needlessly suffering in silence as the stigma of mental health is still very much a problem.
It is, of course, possible to be a good parent and also have depression. While studies have shown that children of depressed parents may be negatively affected, the quality of a positive relationship between the parent and child can very much help to avoid any adverse effects such as a higher risk of poor self-esteem, bad behaviour, anxiety, and poor physical and academic performance.
Guiding Children Through Parental Depression
Unable to put words to or understanding the experience of depression can be a frightening time for young children. They may attempt to figure out what’s happening which can lead them to possibly blaming themselves. We can’t hide our depression from our children, nor should we attempt to. Our children will likely show us more comfort and support when they realise and understand that there is more to how Mum or Dad is feeling.
In helping and guiding our children through a difficult period with parental depression, it is important to help them understand what is happening. Use age-appropriate language when discussing the issue and ensure they know:
- If Mum is sad, it is not their fault.
- They are not responsible for fixing Dad or making him happy.
- It’s okay to ask for help and to feel sad.
- They are loved by Mum and Dad and all of their extended family and friends.
- They are not alone and can share their feelings with those closest to them.
- It’s okay to ask questions about Mum or Dad’s sadness.
Fill Your Cup
Remember, in order to care for your children when you are suffering from depression, it is vital you care for yourself. We become incredibly depleted as parents and filling our cup by understanding and meeting our needs will ensure we have enough to give to our children when they need us the most.
Seek help. Find someone to talk to and to help you with tasks you are having difficulty with. Speak to your GP if you are feeling down, anxious, or depressed.