Parenting

Parenting When You Have Depression: What Can You Do?

The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

When you hear the phrase “mental health,” you might immediately worry about your child and whether they’re showing signs of mental health challenges. But parents can experience mental health challenges, too.

If you’re a parent with depression, know that you’re not alone. Each year, approximately 7.5 million U.S. adults with depression have a child living with them, with at least 15 million children living with a parent who has depression.

Tools for managing depression

Taking care of yourself is important, both for the sake of your children and yourself. Depression can be cyclical. For example, if you are experiencing low energy and cannot get yourself to go to the park with your kids, you may think you’re a bad parent, which then lowers your self-esteem and leads to increased depression and low energy. Breaking the cycle is often the first step to managing your symptoms. Here are a few ways to go about it:

● Talk therapy

If you’re concerned about your mental health, one of the first steps you might want to take is reaching out to a licensed therapist. You can read about the benefits of therapy here: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/concerned-about-your-mental-health-therapy-can-help/.

● Medication

Many people with moderate to severe depression benefit from medications that help regulate emotions, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The most effective approach for depression is often a combination of talk therapy, medications, and support groups.

● Self-care

Things like meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, journaling, yoga can help many people become more compassionate towards themselves. Other self-care practices, like going for a daily walk, practicing personal hygiene, signing up for a group exercise class, or establishing a bedtime routine may help reduce your symptoms. By taking care of your own needs, you can provide a healthy model for your child to follow.

Parenting tips when you’re experiencing depression

When you’re experiencing depression, simple tasks like buying groceries, picking the kids up from school, or playing hide-and-seek can seem exhausting or impossible. According to Cara Macari, LCSW, it’s common for parents with depression to self-isolate, remove themselves from family activities, or have trouble engaging with their children.

The following parenting strategies may help your child navigate this period:

● Have an age-appropriate discussion with them

Your child will notice when you’re experiencing mental health challenges. Letting them know that you are not feeling well, and that it is not their fault, is important. By destigmatizing your challenges, you can also provide a more open channel for your child to share their own feelings and challenges.

● Get professional help for your child

Children whose parent has depression are at a greater risk of experiencing mental health challenges themselves. Child or family therapists can be an essential resource when you’re experiencing depression. These professionals can provide a safe environment for children to explore their feelings and build more secure relationships.   

● Reach out to loved ones

Your friends and family members can be an essential support system. For example, on days when you don’t think you can accomplish everything you need to do, they may be able to help with cooking or picking your child up for a playdate. And when you need someone to talk to, it’s comforting to know there’s a loved one you can call.

● Spend time outdoors together

Time spent outdoors can reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and anger. You might want to try going for a routine walk in the park with your child, or laying out in the sun while they play a game so you can both get the mental and physical health benefits of time spent bonding outdoors.

Takeaway

Being a parent can be hard, especially if you’re experiencing depression. But that doesn’t make you a bad parent. By talking to your child about how you’re feeling and getting professional help, you can be a positive role model for your child and destigmatize discussions of mental health.  

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