Depression in the Household: How it Affects Children

One of the things Bern and I talk about and write about is how to talk to kids about depression in a family member.  When one person in a household struggles with depression, the ripples from this illness touch everyone else – including children. And if children don’t get any explanation about what’s going on, a lot of hurt and misunderstanding can result.

There are plenty of reasons why parents might not talk about depression with the kids.  They may think children are to young to “get it.”  Parents may feel too uncomfortable to talk about the situation at all.  They might think the kids won’t notice anything’s wrong, anyway.

But there are ways to discuss depression with children, and it’s important that we do it.  Of course, we have to take age and level of development into account.  With very young children, we might say, “Mommy has an illness that makes her feel sad sometimes, and grumpy sometimes, and tired.  It’s not quite like a cold, but she is sick and her doctor will try to help her get better.”  With older kids we can be more “scientific,” defining depression, discussing the idea of mental illness, and describing the kinds of things that might be tried on the path to healing.

When we don’t keep our kids informed, they’ll make up their own explanations:  “Mommy must be angry because I did something wrong” or “Daddy sleeps all the time because he doesn’t want to play with me.” Read more about what it’s like to be kept in the dark in this heart-felt post by Brittany Moso:

http://brittanymoso.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/mental-illness-impacts-the-family-system-too/#comment-59

Thanks, Brittany, for having the courage to write about your experience growing up with depressed parents.  Talking about it is a wonderful way to help others.

-Amy

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9 Responses

  1. I am glad you posted this. I have two young boys, ages 9 and 5 and I often wonder how they perceive my depression.

  2. Reblogged this on The healthiest beauty.

  3. Great post, and an important reminder about the value of communicating with children. Loved it! I’m going to tweet it as well on @carefreecarers. 🙂

  4. wow, This is a wonderful post! Thank you.

  5. depressed parents absolutely will affect kids, they are their models!
    but the real problem happens when children will have this depression.
    unfortunately, depression in children is a little late to be discovered! because most of parents would think their child is acting lazily, in fact he has lost his energy because of depression. forcing children to get out of this situation will make it worse because it gives them feeling that nobody (even their parents) feel about them or support them.
    thanks, very important subject to talk about especially in such a society.

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