Raising children is challenging for any parent given the many demands placed on parents in today’s world. When a parent has depression, the parenting can be even more overwhelming.
Depression, left untreated, can have a major impact on all areas of family life and particularly the healthy parenting of children. How parents communicate thoughts and feelings and how parents relate to each other and other people helps define for children what “normal” behavior is. The symptoms of depression may impair a parent’s relationships. Simple tasks can become difficult; supportive interaction can become critical; social withdrawal can rob children of playful interaction.
Here are some suggestions that can minimize the impact of depression on healthy parenting:
- Don’t ignore symptoms of depression. If you experience a persistent depressed mood and also find that you are having trouble sleeping, changes in your appetite, loss of energy, trouble concentrating, markedly diminished interest or pleasure in most activities you should talk to your doctor, especially if you also have thoughts of hurting yourself.
- Get help and follow through with treatment. With appropriate treatment you can feel better, and can improve or completely relieve your symptoms. The first step is talking to your doctor or a mental health professional about how you are feeling. If you are diagnosed with depression, treatment may include taking antidepressant medication or participating in “talk” therapy.
- Stay involved with your family. Make time for family activities and set aside time to stay connected with your children. Read to him or her, talk to you child about school and other activities, or just take a walk. Sharing time with your spouse and children will have a positive impact on your recovery and your children.
- Talk to your children about your illness. Help your child understand what's happening in the family by talking about the problem openly and addressing his or her fears and concerns. Help them recognize that they are not to blame and that you are seeking treatment and expect top get better soon.
- Involve supportive friends and relatives and friends in your recovery. It is important that you recognize that you are not dealing with depression alone. Allowing friends and family to help with tasks such as child-care, housework, and transportation provides the time you need for treatment and family time. In addition, you are creating opportunities for your children to develop and maintain supportive relationships with friends and family.