Posted by: jedwardswright | August 9, 2010

Parenting with Depression

Depression makes us feel guilty…a lot, and what we feel most guilty about is our kids.

Struggling constantly to keep them from being affected negatively by our mental health, we hope and pray that they will grow up unscathed.  Logic tells us that our children must be impacted somehow by our black moods, but we try not to think about it. We even try to live in denial of such a possibility, but deep down there is worry.

As well, there is the threat of their genetic inheritance, so we monitor our kids’ emotional well-being almost as much as our own.  Are our teenage daughters sliding into depression, or is it just a bad case of hormones? Other mothers worry when their sons sleep so much if they are doing drugs, but we wonder whether they can’t get out of bed in the morning because of growing gloominess.  Everyone else laughs when their kids wear black all the time, while we are checking for signs that they are despondent.

Are we right to be concerned, or just paranoid?

Every mother does her best, and no parent is perfect. The reality is that all kids are affected by their parents’ imperfections, not just those with depression in their families. That is life.

The important thing is this – do your children know that they are loved? Yes, of course you love your kids, but that wasn’t the question.  Do they know it? Do tell them so regularly? Are there lots of hugs and kisses? Do you praise them often? Do you celebrate what makes them special and cheer them on when they are exploring their talents and passions?

If you can say yes to these questions with a fair amount of confidence, odds are your kids will be alright. If you see some things there that you know you could do more, go for it!

Just remember though: we do our children no favors if our guilt feelings cause us to over-indulge them or not to give them consequences for bad behavior. They need to learn the life skills that will make them good friends, successful students, and someday, great parents to our grandchildren!

When it comes to our worries about passing depression on to our kids, some concern is reasonable. The evidence definitely shows that depression runs in families. However, most experts agree that heredity is only one factor. Many elements other than genetics also play a role in determining a person’s makeup.

Basically, while we should keep an eye on our children’s emotional well-being, they are certainly not doomed to follow in our footsteps. There is every chance that our kids will grow up to have excellent mental health.

I have raised two children to adulthood, and both became perfectly well-adjusted people, even though I wasn’t diagnosed or treated for depression for most of their early years, and continued to suffer periodic downturns thereafter. In fact, I have been amazed at their accomplishments and poise.

Our children are our most precious treasures, and we do our best to give them a healthy, stable environment. While that isn’t always possible, they usually are much more resilient than we give them credit for, especially if they feel secure in our love. They are not predestined to have mental health problems, but if they do, they are far better off having parents like us who will recognize the symptoms and get them help early.

Having depression does not make us bad parents!  Let’s let go of the guilt and take hold of hope for our children’s futures.

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