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Depression and Kids

An issue Bern and I have discussed and written about fairly often is the affects of parental depression on children in the family.

We approach this issue from experience, having both been in the situation of needing to help our kids through their fathers’ long-term illness. Discussing depression with kids must always be tailored to their age and intellectual development – obviously you don’t talk about chemical imbalance, medication, therapy, and genetic predisposition with a five-year-old. Yet arming that five-year old with a framework for understanding what’s happening in the family is absolutely necessary.

In our family, we kind of fell short on that information sharing until our kids were quite a bit older – so my advice and insight are more along the lines of “how I wish we’d done it.” But at least now the topic is out there for discussion at any time, and we check in with our kids regularly about how they’re doing (knowing that a shocking percentage of college students experience depression and anxiety.)

All of this was brought back to me this morning due to a comment from our middle child. She’s living at home while in college, and she’s been the closest witness of our three kids to the incredible turnaround recently in her father’s emotional health. As he went out the door this morning the two of them shared a joke and a laugh. Once he left, she said to me, “I really like having happy Papa now.”

Her  words were a testament to how significantly the moods of a depressed person affect everyone else in the household. I’m just thankful our kids feel comfortable talking about it, and that we’re currently in a good place.



8 Responses

  1. As I write with tears in my eyes, I have such horrible guilt that my depression and anxiety have negatively impacted the growth of my kids. I know I can’t change anything, but I wish I could. I only hope that they felt the extreme love I have always had for them.

    • Oh, my goodness, I hate that what I write about sometimes brings up pain for readers. We’ve had problems in the past with our perspective as “loved ones of the depressed” being difficult for the depressed to hear about, and I’m truly sorry that my words have affected you this way. I’m quite certain your kids know how much you love them. Our kids never doubted their father’s love and devotion to them for even a moment. Peace – Amy

      • No, no! Your words did not touch me that way, it’s simply a guilt thing I am trying to move through. I wrote a blog about it, but couldn’t publish it.

        Our oldest son has a mental illness. I saw it when he was younger, but I didn’t force him into treatment. I know that if someone doesn’t recognize they have a problem, no amount of “help” will–well, help.

        Our daughter grew up with stomach issues. I assumed she always complained to get out of doing something. She found out that she is gluten intolerant. So, all those sandwiches and pancakes that she ate, and then complained that she didn’t feel well, there was a legitimate reason, and I didn’t connect the dots.

        Our youngest son is dyslexic. I had a suspicion, was going to have him tested, we moved and I dropped it. He also suffers from the same type of attention deficit disorder that I have. I would have never placed him on medication, but maybe my approach to helping him through school would have been different.

        That’s what made the tears form.

    • Oh April, don’t beat up on yourself. When a child is born there is no manual that comes with them. When we are not at our best ourselves, then that makes it even more difficult to make decisions.
      Your children know that you love them. You are the best mother!! Take heart in that my friend 😛

  2. I think we all with those parental regrets. I was just musing recently on things I wish I’d picked up on more clearly in our oldest. We dealt with some issues, but not in a holistic way that would have been much more helpful. I’m thankful that now she’s reaching out for the kind of help and treatment that can make a difference for her, but feel really crummy that I didn’t do more sooner.

  3. My Tween has lived her life with two parents who have suffered at various times. She makes comments to me about her Dad but she understands that he is not coping well with things. Now that he is coming good she is enjoying the time spent with him and she is definitely his girl.
    We took her to one of the therapy sessions once and I think she found that very insightful. But it is not something that we would recommend doing on a regular basis.

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