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6 Things Every Kid Should Know About a Parent’s Depression

Depression never happens in a vacuum. Like a ripple in the water, a parent’s illness can’t help but affect her offspring.

Different studies have documented how depression in a new mother clearly affects her interactions with her baby or toddler. Depressed mothers are more withdrawn, less responsive to their infant’s signals. “Their facial expressions and displays of emotion [are] more muted or flat, and their voices [are] monotone,” explains Ruta Nonacs in “A Deeper Shade of Blue.” “They [remain] disengaged and [do] little to support their child’s activities or exploration of the environment.”

A mother’s depression also affects grade-schoolers and adolescents.

When parents fail to meet the needs of the people under their care, some kids begin to act out, have difficulty with schoolwork, become hyperactive. A sizable percentage start to isolate and feel depressed themselves.

7 Comments to
6 Things Every Kid Should Know About a Parent’s Depression

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  1. This is a great article. My Dad has terrible depression and always has. So much so that when I was 13, he gave up on being a parent. He left the family and to this day lives alone and miserable and is estranged from his whole family. My Mom tried to get him help thru the years but he was so angry and in denial and refused. Again, this is a great article. I think of what it would have been like for someone to explain these things to me when I was young. Instead what happened is I set out to be just the opposite of my Dad and always appeared in good spirits. Really what ended up happening is that I spent most of my life denying my own depression. Even to this day, I have to take a deep breath before I connect my name with the word depression in a sentence. I’m getting better about that though. At 33 years old, after beginning therapy and meds a year ago, I really do feel like I’m getting a fresh start in a way… like why didn’t I get help years ago? I could have felt so much better so much sooner!

  2. Great article. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. I am sorry but I see 2-3 dangerous things in your article and I disagree with the whole idea, unless a parent doesn’t have major depression. Many people have syndromes of reactive depression, at least those who do not lack empathy. (What about other disorders – that come or issue lack of empathy – should be told also to the child?) Many things could be instilled in a child’s head, especially when he doesn’t have the age to understand. “The mere consolation of knowing she is loved will promote her resiliency and protect her from the blow of depression’s curse.” You wrote that! Then why the need for the rest? Have you thought about how many parents could be simply rip off of their children because “depression”(no matter not a “major depression”) was put as a diagnosis? Any such disorder as depression or anxiety increase the risk of “abusing the child”, but I suppose you know that. Good for you that you have a husband and parents to sustain you! Others might not have support from anyone around. Take their child and wreck them down “in the best interest of the child”! Not all the parents in depression are “less responsive to their infant’s signals”; there is still the maternal instinct, that I think is one of the strongest ones!

  4. Thank you thank you thank you! although i slightly agree with gabby, my mother has depression and has had since i was 10 years old.. My father left and i struggled to deal with it for a long time resulting in a breakdown in the relationship between me and my dad. i went through some rough years and now just get pissed off when she over reacts all the time as i think it has gone on for long enough hence now at the age of 16 i am at boarding school where i dont have to deal with it so much, only the phone calls. i love her to bits and always will, just find it ridiculously hard sometimes

  5. Yes, good article…
    Any article, video, or audio or any way possible I can know I’m not the only husband/father married to depression is good. Of course you can probably sense a “however” coming so here it is.
    However, I point number one you mentioned depression being an illness. Like something was wrong with one part of the brain and not letting in something from another. The conflict causing depression. Yes, you were giving an example of explaining depression to a child. Yet, we hear this simplified explanation commonly. “There’s a chemical imbalance in the brain”. “Something in the brain is not communicating correctly with another”. These comments all support an illness or defect.
    Yet in point number three it’s mentioned that explaining to the child what is going on with their depressed parent will give them a better oppourtunity not to become depressed themselves.
    So my question is, can someone else’s depression cause that chemical imbalance, that brokenness of brain, that illness to happen in another persons?
    That’s my twenty year stuggle. Does the depression start in the brain causing the attitude, behavior, and finally the depression. Or do the actions of a person cause them to be depressed?

  6. I appreciate the attempt, especially since all I’ve heard and read is how my bipolar depression is ruining my children ( talk about a great suicidal trigger!)
    However, is it truly impossible to be depressed and a good parent? Is it impossible to be chronically ill and a good parent?

    One thing not mentioned: try. Take your meds, get help. I cared much less about my parents’ success then that they didn’t care enough (so it felt) to try.

  7. Thank you. Even though this is an older piece, I still re-read it frequently. I have two young children, and I’m struggling with depression. My oldest is 4, so my explanations remain pretty simple, but I keep referring back to this list to make sure I’m at least covering this much.



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