Going through depression isn’t easy, especially if you’re a parent.
Parents’ unmanaged depression affect their kids in negative ways that will continue to follow them as they grow up.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 16.1 million adults in the US or 6.7 percent of the adult population are affected by depression in any given year.
Although everyone can develop depression regardless of age and gender, persons who are 32.5 or older have a higher risk of dealing with depression.
Struggling with symptoms of depression isn’t easy, particularly if you’re a parent.
The even bigger problem occurs when depression isn’t treated properly and it affects the children.
If you’re a parent who’s dealing with depression, your condition can affect your kids in these 5 ways.
1. They show poor performance in school
An increasing number of children fail to meet basic demands in school, they don’t pay attention, sit properly, do homework, or can’t seem to control themselves. Most people would immediately assume a child is spoiled and he or she misbehaves because they feel like it.
When a child’s school performance weakens continuously together with behavior changes, it’s irresponsible to take the problem lightly and say well he’s just spoiled. In many instances, that is the way a child reacts to a parent’s depression.
A study from the JAMA Psychiatry revealed that children perform worse in school when their parents are diagnosed with depression.
Depressed parents who avoid treating their mental health problems experience numerous symptoms including the loss of interest. Their condition prevents them from going to school to check how the child’s doing or helping the kid with homework.
It’s not that a depressed mother or father refuses to do those things, but their mental health problem doesn’t allow them to do so.
Also, a child may perform and behave badly in school because it’s a coping mechanism and a way to get more of the attention that they lack at home.
2. They feel guilty
The last thing a child wants to see is a parent who’s going through a tough time. Although a depressed parent tries hard to hide feelings and emotions, children pick up on everything and they know when something is wrong.
When a child sees a parent who’s finding it difficult to function it’s easy for them to feel guilty. Although your child doesn’t know how to define your condition, doesn’t know the causes, symptoms, and signs of depression, they might still blame themselves for everything that’s happening to you.
Children pick up on everything, but they are inclined to believe anything that happens in the world is somehow their fault.
So, if you don’t manage your depression and explain it to your child, the feeling of guilt will only aggravate and affect your child’s mental health and behavior too.
The key is to be proactive about your condition and explain it to your child in a way they will easily understand that it’s not their fault.
3. They don’t feel safe
Despite being widely prevalent, depression is largely misunderstood. It’s not just about being sad, an affected person experiences a number of physical and mental symptoms including the above-mentioned loss of interest.
For example, you lose interest in things you were once passionate about and it’s also not uncommon for depressed individuals to neglect personal hygiene and home.
As a result, the house can appear dirty and messy, there are no ready meals for children, and safety standards aren’t met, among other things.
In this environment, a child doesn’t feel safe. Feeling unsafe in their own home urges children to grow up quickly and take care of themselves and siblings. Their childhood is ended, prematurely.
4. They become insecure
Besides the loss of interest, a depressed parent may also experience mood swings or irritability and social withdrawal. At that point, they can change moods very fast and, thus, confuse, or intimidate a child.
For example, a parent can start yelling out of the blue and make a kid feel scared, insecure, and vulnerable. Depression can also make a man or a woman spends days in bed, without getting up for more than 10 minutes. All they want is to be alone, without anyone calling or entering the room.
When left untreated, depression can prevent you from parenting but you can overcome it by being proactive.
5. They’re affected by arguments
Depression can cause relationship instability. For example, a husband may keep telling his wife to “snap out of it” while she yells accusing him of being heartless.
While two adults are arguing, a child is the one who has to listen to all that. No child wants to see the parents arguing and, even worse, splitting up. Frequent arguments, as depression isn’t going away, make a child worried, confused, and sad.
Depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects every aspect of a person’s life, including your parenting. No amount of parenting advice can counter the effects of depression on a depressed parent.
Learning how to deal with depression is never easy but you must take the necessary steps. When left untreated, the symptoms of depression aggravate and become more intense.
As a result, your child suffers even though that’s the last thing you want to see. Of course, you’re not to blame, but your condition.
That’s why you should seek support from loved ones, be honest with your child, and get help so you can have a healthy and happy life again.
Donna Begg is an expert editor, a mentor, analyst, and researcher.