5 Ways Your Unmanaged Depression Can Affect Your Kids
Parents’ unmanaged depression affects their kids in negative ways that follow them as they grow up.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression affects about 16.1 million adults in the US, or 6.7 percent of the adult population, in any given year.
Although everyone can develop depression regardless of age and gender, people 32.5 or older have a higher risk of dealing with depression.
Struggling with depression symptoms isn’t easy, particularly if you’re a parent. An 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 five 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 the child is spoiled and misbehaves because they feel like it.
When a child’s school performance weakens continuously and you notice behaviour 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 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 a 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 depressed parent refuses to do those things, but their mental health problem doesn’t allow them to.
Also, a child may perform and behave badly in school because it’s a coping mechanism to get more of the attention 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 depressed parent tries hard to hide their feelings, 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 and doesn’t know the causes, symptoms, and signs of depression, they might still blame themselves for everything that’s happening to them.
Children pick up on everything, but they tend 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 guilt will only aggravate your child’s mental health and behaviour.
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. The person experiences a number of physical and mental symptoms.
For example, you lose interest in things you were once passionate about. It’s also common 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 the home doesn’t meet safety standards, 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 their siblings. Their childhood ends, prematurely.
4. They become insecure
Besides the loss of interest, a parent dealing with depression may also experience mood swings 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 someone 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. Arguments affect them
Depression can cause relationship instability. For example, a husband may keep telling his wife to “snap out of it” while she accuses 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 parent.
Learning how to deal with depression is never easy, but you must take the necessary steps. If you don’t take steps to treat depression, the symptoms 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 it’s 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.