Parenting While Depressed: 10 Things to Remember

parent surrounded by toysParenting is difficult enough when you feel fantastic, but when you’re struggling with depression, it can seem downright impossible.

It need not be so, though. Experiencing depression doesn’t mean you can’t be an incredible, loving, smart, and effective parent. In fact, in some ways it can make you a better parent. Because of your depression, you may be extra sensitive to your children’s moods and needs. This can be a great thing!

If you’re a parent with depression, here are 10 things worth considering:

  1. Sometimes “good enough” is perfectly fine. You can’t always give 100%. Some days will be harder than others. You don’t have to be a super-parent every hour of every day.
  2. Find your tribe. Seek out a group of people who are aware of your condition and can help you through it. This can be an online group, but an in-person group is even better. These are the people you can call when the baby is inconsolable and you’re angry. This is the group that can remind you that your feelings are normal or tell you that you may be overreacting.
  3. Find a psychiatrist. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you need an expert who understands how antidepressants may be transmitted and how they could affect your child. Don’t go off your medication without talking to a physician. Some antidepressants are safer than others.
  4. Beware of postpartum depression. Educate yourself on the difference between the baby blues and full-blown postpartum depression or psychosis. If you see signs of postpartum depression or psychosis, contact your doctor immediately. If you have thoughts about hurting your child, go to the nearest emergency room.
  5. Forgive yourself and your children. Everyone makes mistakes. Be gentle with yourself and the people around you. Depression often masks as agitation, irritability, or anger.
  6. You are not your condition. Your depression isn’t the only thing about you. It isn’t even the most important thing. You are a parent and may be any number of other things: a partner, a lover, a friend, an employee, a teammate, etc.
  7. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Ask for help from your spouse or partner, friends, an extended family member, someone from your church or congregation, a family doctor, or a mental health professional. You may need a few minutes to talk, a medication change, or someone to take your kids for a few hours so you can seek out a therapist.
  8. Lighten things up. Take a break from the news, which tends to focus on heavy and upsetting things. Listen to, read, and watch things that make you feel good, are funny, and don’t stress you out.
  9. Live fearlessly. Don’t let depression stop you from doing things or meeting people. That can be easier said than done, but get out there, live large, and experience life with your children.
  10. Let your children in. Depending on their ages, you may want to tell your children different things about your condition. The very youngest of children don’t need to be told anything. Around the age of 4, your mood or visits to your therapist may be noticed. You might explain that mommy or daddy sometimes gets really sad and needs help. You can relate it to when your child gets sad and you hold or comfort him or her. Older children may experience your low moods and take them personally. Here, you can use the word depression. Make sure your child knows it’s not his or her fault, and that you are taking care of yourself. If you have a hospitalization, you may choose to tell your child why you’re gone and how it will help. When your children are in their teens, use your depression as a way of explaining the condition and what to watch for. Encourage them to be open if they feel depressed or hopeless. Let them know that if they want a counselor, you will find them one.

No one expects you (or anyone else) to be perfect or “on” continually. Remember, millions of people around the world are experiencing, or have experienced, depression. You’re not alone.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jenise Harmon, LISW-S, therapist in Columbus, Ohio

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Shelby

    Shelby

    March 25th, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    Always be willing to seek out help. It is hard, I know that, it is hard to let other people in and see the pain that you are feeling. There are going to be those times however when you need that additional help and support so you have to be willing to let someone in so that they can help you share that burden that you are feeling. If this is a true friend they will never make you feel like they are being pout out or that you owe then anything for that kindness. They will simply want to help because they care and they love you.

  • Leila

    Leila

    March 25th, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    You always have to remember to not allow this little hiccup define who you are.
    This is not who you are
    this is just a little bump in the road
    that you CAN and WILL get past

  • Emotional

    Emotional

    March 25th, 2015 at 4:30 PM

    I wish I had help when my son was younger. I have been diagnosed with anxiety but I’m pretty sure I have depression. From high anxiety, to sleeping away my weekends from migraines and exhaustion. No energy at times to do much. My child is now 12. I tell him I see therapist to help me with things I need to talk about. I apologize to him when I have a bad day and that it’s not his fault. I’m still working on letting my therapist in. Last session I must have because all of a sudden the same question she has asked another time made me feel like the past was happening for real. I cried but not completely. Then if course I regretted not crying fully for a week with tears welling up daily. A coworker driving up my anxiety even when I told her what I needed her to stop doing, then next session cancelled because of snow and I had a really hard time emotionally because I had s note ready to give therspist. But I aldo knew it wasn’t her fault. Since my dr altered my meds I’ve befn calmer

  • Euridice

    Euridice

    March 26th, 2015 at 1:09 AM

    I too have struggled with depression, single mum with 2 girls and penniless. Having depressing thoughts when you still have to ferry the girls to activities and parents meetings when all I want to do is go to bed and sleep until next summer. I told my daughters that I was ill and needed the rest and needed their help, and they helped. They saw me in bed and asked me if I needed anything and kept themselves busy with their homework and books and television. I had to get rid of the depression though so I started little exercise, eating chocolate and fruits that I love and instead of cleaning the whole kitchen, I only washed what I needed. I gave myself permission to sleep, and rest. I cried whilst driving, I screamed at the car and hit the wheel, then finally started volunteering at a mental health drop-in. I started to feel alive little by little, listening to my songs, meditating on “I am strong”, I didn’t know there was so many different meditations on YouTube, I meditated every night and my friend helped me with Reiki. So I started living life a little at a time, never forcing anything and showing the brain that there are little pleasures in life and things could be much worse.

  • Shelby

    Shelby

    March 26th, 2015 at 9:05 AM

    It is a very brave thing you did in seeking help. It was very hard for me to come to terms that I needed help and then to open up once I had help. I am bipolar with a depression disorder. I am so glad I got help and it helped me so much. I take medication now that keeps me balanced and stopped going to my psychologist because I felt better. After five trips to the hospital in a matter of 2 months I realized how important therapy is. Don’t worry so much about your kids, I felt like a horrible parent and still in ways do. When I got home from my last hospital stay which I missed my sons 16th birthday while I was there. My kids said to me that they don’t care if I’m not always here f them and can’t always do stuff for them. All that matters to them is that there mom is here. It’s good you explain you’re struggles and suffering to your kids because without understanding is what is the hardest on them. So don’t worry about anyone but yourself right now. You need to be healthy and focus on freeing yourself from this. I wish you the very best! Stay strong, you can do it!!

  • marisa

    marisa

    March 28th, 2015 at 5:58 PM

    Hang in there. You are so important to your kids and they know you love them. I don’t have a support system and wish I did. It’s so important to find even 1 close friend. I have been hurt so much in the past that I have built walls and have trust issues. Someone to talk to would help so much. God Bless You and good luck.

  • cole

    cole

    March 26th, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    that’s right- find your tribe because it does take a village!

  • Eliza

    Eliza

    March 26th, 2015 at 3:58 PM

    There’s all this guilt that is there when you are the parent of a family and you are depressed. You really don’t feel like doing that much that causes you to engage but at the same time you feel tremendously guilty when you aren’t able to jump in there and stay involved.
    It does help when you have others who can pick up some of that for you but there is never any true substitute for family involvement.
    The best thing that I could say would be to know that you have to get help when there is something like this wrong because you know that your kids need more than what depression could be allowing you to give.

  • kristin

    kristin

    March 27th, 2015 at 3:30 AM

    It is terribly hard to parent while depressed and to be parenting a child with bipolar/anxiety/depression on top of it is even harder. I don’t know about every one else but I feel so incredibly guilty an all the time. Am I doing enough to help my child with her illness and I have to remind myself all the time that I have surrounded my self with the most amazing help for her.

  • Chris

    Chris

    March 28th, 2015 at 8:17 AM

    I Also feel the added guilt of “I’ve passed down these genetics to make her feel this way”. Some days are so tough but be proud for what you do do.

  • Michaela

    Michaela

    March 28th, 2015 at 6:11 PM

    Don’t worry. She won’t ever blame you. I got diagnosed with depression and anxiety this year and my mom has been nothing but supportive. I feel like she can actually relate and understand what I’m feeling because she has felt the same way before.

  • Julie M

    Julie M

    March 28th, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    Kristen,
    I so understand the guilt. I feel it everyday and my girls are 19 and 21. It is a hard job to parent in the best of times.
    The fact that you are here and openly expressing yourself is very brave. Thank you.

  • Annie

    Annie

    March 27th, 2015 at 10:37 AM

    I have only had one depressive episode in my life,and I will tell you what, those of you who are parents and are having to not only struggle with this but raise your children too? You all are saints. This is the one thing that I have ever fought with that completely consumed me and the thought of having to take care of anything but myself would have been so incredibly difficult that I am not sure that I could have managed to do that.

  • Gretchen

    Gretchen

    March 28th, 2015 at 5:41 AM

    Thank you! I needed that!

  • farra

    farra

    March 28th, 2015 at 4:54 AM

    I think that many of us as parents always struggle with the questions of whether everything that we are doing is good enough for our children. I think that the questions are answered right here. There are going to be times when we all feel that we are not doing everything just right for our children, but as this says, there will be those days where you have to accept that yes, you might could do a little better at times, but there are also going to be those days that are good enough too. It will all balance out in the end.

  • Dana

    Dana

    March 28th, 2015 at 5:20 AM

    i have such a hard time parenting with depression. I am a single parent and have bipolar 2. I am only on my medication half of the time due to not having any insurance. My daughter was at her dads last weekend and he called me and asked why our daughter would tell him that I am tired all of the time. I feel like such a bad parent/person She deserves better. I have never told her father about my mental health issues because he already calls me crazy and bipolar. I actually think I am incredibly calm and reasonable with him. I hope one day soon I can come out of this funk or get property medicated to feel better.

  • Lulu

    Lulu

    March 28th, 2015 at 7:59 AM

    Ive been diagnosed with bipolar depression since i was 16. Im turning 22 and im being rehabilitated for a second time. I have a lovely boyfriend that supports me. We are talking about children and i have infertility issues so i have to start earlier than expected to try for children. Im extremely scared. I dont want to put any child through this. I can barely look after myself daily… What if i get better and this happens again or is even worse after the birth of a child. I am so scared.

  • Tisha

    Tisha

    March 28th, 2015 at 9:19 AM

    this hits right in line with my life. I’ve suffered bouts of depression since I was 19 years old. Now I also have anxiety disorder as well. My mind never sleeps. Life and all my decisions play in my head over and over. Mostly feeling inadequate as a single parent. I’m on medicine now and will continue it because it truly helps. I hope others do the same. I know the pain and despair that happens with depression. I do not want to go back to that dark place. Learning to give myself credit for doing everything I can for my kids instead of thinking I’m not doing enough. This article just reinforces the things I have to tell myself daily

  • Tamara

    Tamara

    March 28th, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    Thank you for this article. I am going to share with my sister. We both suffer with depression and although we live in different states we are suporrotive of the other during our bouts and it helps us get through.

  • Rachael

    Rachael

    March 28th, 2015 at 9:27 PM

    I feel like a neglectful parent when depressed. In bed a lot and emotionally dead when out of bed. I forget things like permission slips and enough food to fill a lunch box. Everyone suffers when I’m depressed. Life goes on,I’m there but I’m not. Like a phantom mother I am. The whole house reeks of sadness and despair. I try to tell myself it’s ok but it’s not. Next time round I’m determined not to be so hard on myself. To accept help from others and to know that good enough parenting is just that. Next time I’ll be reassured that it won’t last forever and that brighter days are around the corner. Next time I’ll place my hope in god my saviour and healer.

  • John

    John

    February 11th, 2017 at 2:48 AM

    My heart goes out to you Racheal :) Just keep on keeping on :)

  • AbbieA

    AbbieA

    March 29th, 2015 at 5:22 AM

    Depression is something that can range from minor to very serious, and anything in between. I would dare say that there are quite a few families who are living with a depressed parent in the home and who may not even recognize that this is what they are feeling! I would say that of course if you are severely depressed them others will probably take notice but for most of us this is an illness with which we usually suffer in silence until we finally see that the darkness has started to lift or that we need some help with clearing out those cobwebs.

  • Risa

    Risa

    March 29th, 2015 at 2:35 PM

    I totally relate as I have two kids under the age of 10 and I feel so terrible that they see me depressed. I tell them that mommy isn’t feeling good and I’m feeling sad,but I will get better. My youngest is more attached to me where the oldest not so much. I just tell them I love them and I promise to never leave them. I wish I could be a functional mom for my kids and let them have plaudits etc but I let this Depression get the best of me. I don’t want my kids growing up remembering their mommy as always sad,crying or in bed. I want to feel alive again and I pray to God that he will give me the strength to keep fighting.

  • andrea

    andrea

    April 3rd, 2016 at 6:35 AM

    I totally relate to you. I have 2 children. One is 9 and he spends most of his time on the computer because i am.too depressed to play with him. I have so much guilt. I am not a good parent. I worry that he will be depressed later in life. I wish i could change. I just dont know how.

  • Christal

    Christal

    March 29th, 2015 at 3:42 PM

    My husband and my mom were lifesavers for me.
    I don’t know what I would have done without their help.

  • Terri

    Terri

    March 30th, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    I am 57, and have been depressed all my life. Please have your doctor check your vitamin d level. I take 50,000 units weekly and have seen my level if depression go from major to manageable in a period of months. I have been on it for two years and finally have my vitamin d level in a normal range. Hope this helps someone…I have tried everything. B complex with vitamin C helps too.

  • marilyn

    marilyn

    March 30th, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    Thank you Terri I will take this into consideration

  • Gregory

    Gregory

    March 31st, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    It can definitely help when you have an experienced professional with whom you can talk and confide.

    I know that you have your family but sometimes it feels a little nicer to have an outsider, someone who can be open and objective and not have any preconceived notions about who you are or should be.

  • Pure

    Pure

    April 2nd, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    Depression has no limits!.. If not treated it will stay on top of you & form your LIFE!.. The help is out there/right here on this website!.. If not here than please just get help!.. 🙏

  • Elaine

    Elaine

    June 4th, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    The biggest load of crap I’ve ever seen in my life!!!! I’ve fought medicated for years and gave all my energy to providing and supporting my kids to have my discussion with my doctor passed onto social workers that refused to help in the past! Today I gave up my rights to my children as the investigation into how my mental illness left me with nothing left to fight for! They took my job with their constant meetings, they took my children’s hobbies, they reintroduced my abusive ex into our lives and even the car. Never ever tell anyone you are depressed with hen you have babies at home or they will take the last and only good thing away from you

  • Dawn

    Dawn

    October 18th, 2015 at 7:03 PM

    Elaine, I’m so sorry. I know what your going through. I lost one of my children to her father as well. Luckily, I know she is safe and loved and is not living with strangers… But it still sucks.
    With that said, PLEASE do not discourage other mothers with depression to seek help. Our cases are not that common.
    It is better to seek help rather than hurt yourself or your children because you didn’t. And I don’t just mean physically. It can be very emotionally traumatizing as a child to see a parent suffer truth depression with no help and can cause a great deal of harm to how they function when they are adults. Trust me–that was my childhood.
    I’m very sorry for your loss Elaine. Truly.
    But if you are a parent with depression, PLEASE seek help. The chances of them taking your children are so slim that they FAR outweigh the risks of you NOT seeking help. I promise.

  • Sue

    Sue

    October 23rd, 2015 at 12:47 AM

    I’ve battled depression on and off for over 25yrs. My ex didn’t understand or even try too but instead blabbed to our children since 8yrs old about me having that condition and spoke down about it instead of supporting. .
    Needless to say I lost my daughter (15yrs old) to him. My son 13yrs lives with me and we are very close. He has ADHD & behavioural/learning difficulties. Yes I spent a great deal of time with him because he needed extra support in regards to all aspects.
    I hated the days where I was emotional drained and depressed. I have seen therapists in past and now again am. I need to find myself again. In a 6 month period, we separated, he moved out with my daughter, my father passed away and now a close aunt is in palliative care.
    I gave up my career and was a stay at home mom prior, so I am back to school in different field than I was. It’s been a yr since separation but I still cry at times.
    Partially due to depression, hormone change (48yrs old), loss of self confidence/esteem and anxiety issues. I actually hate leaving the home because I feel so crappy or see everything I’m missing out there I don’t feel able to do at this time.
    I know I was a darn good parent (still am). I did sacrifice myself for my children(the family) but I am more aware of my sons emotions/feelings due to it all. I’m reading “Law of Abundance” info to hopefully get myself to feel good and to simply learn to really live in greatness again.
    Depression isn’t understood often by others. There is no greater wish I have then to just feel happy. I sympathize will everyone. :)

  • angie

    angie

    October 19th, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    Elaine I agree with you. And our stories are that common!!! They will turn your entire life upside down, and your children’s. Yes, we need to seek help however, there needs to be a better way.

  • C L

    C L

    October 19th, 2015 at 12:55 PM

    I’m forty two work my depression starting at fifteen. I had to give two children up for adoption as a teen mom. I’m raising a daughter, now 17, all she has ever seen was me sleep my life away.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    October 19th, 2015 at 5:58 PM

    Dear C L,

    If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage: https://www.goodtherapy.org
    You can enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    Please know that help is available, and you may use our web site at any time.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Amber

    Amber

    December 9th, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    WoW! I am amazed at the out pour of encouraging words. I was literally falling apart full flowing tears and after reading the comments here, you all give me hope too and compassion. I feel a little better now that I’ve visited this page, no longer crying. Thank you all so very much for that. I am not alone. I should not judge myself. God, I need that constant reassurance. Sharing your feelings and thoughts of compassion for others struggling in the same boat goes so very far for ones feeling like they are literally “drowning” in life. I wish I had a “louder” voice, but silence, shame, and isolation still harbors most of my pain. Thank you for all of your sharing.

  • Marian

    Marian

    June 29th, 2016 at 10:57 AM

    Have you ever being so alone and lost that you rely on google for an answer? Yes I have

  • MommyJ

    MommyJ

    August 19th, 2016 at 2:25 AM

    Yes I have. In fact i stumbled upon this site Googling on how to “parent with depression”. I am so lost. And guilty. And clueless. We live far from the city and i have no friends close by. I rely on virtual communications. My only personal interaction is with my husband, who I think is getting sick of my whining and complaining about what I’m feeling. So i keep it to myself. Which makes it more difficult.

  • Penny Lane

    Penny Lane

    April 25th, 2017 at 6:33 AM

    I know I have depression at times and I understand what causes it. My problem is how do I deal with it. I am so emotionally connected to my kids- when they hurt, I hurt 10x more. I have tried to parent them into being responsible young adults but they don’t care. How do I parent them when they have no ambition, no care, no desire or goals. They don’t care if they turn in homework. Its ok for them to fail in high school, get bad grades. When they do these things- it doesn’t phase them, but it hurts me x10. I give them boundaries- they break them. Some will say that I am a helicopter parent. But, guess what…. I stopped caring (well, showing them) that I want them to do well and I am leaving it up to them to do well for themselves. Guess how that worked out… they still don’t care. Ask any parent how great it is to say ” My children are failing in life. I have taught them well.”. How many parents hate saying on a daily basis… I just wish I could be one of those parents who brag about their kids and be proud of them for something. So, as depressed as I am- I can not escape. I am doomed to feel this way until they grow up and I am forced to kick them out of my house. And, let me tell you- that’s going to make me feel even better… NOT. Any suggestions are welcome. The way I see it- I have depression and I deal with it just fine. I don’t sleep all day. I am just sad and cry all the time. As long as my kids fail, I will have to feel this way.

  • Mom

    Mom

    July 7th, 2017 at 12:28 PM

    When I was 7 months pregnant, my brother killed himself. I felt guilty because it was short after the ones who “helped” him with his problems told me to let him go. “He had to take care of him self” and me and my mom bringing him food everytime he didn’t eat “wasn’t the right way for him to get over it”. I still think I shouldn’t have listened to them, I still feel depressed sometimes.
    In the first two weeks after her birth I felt strong because of her, but when she got a little older I sometimes couldn’t handle her crying. I shouted at her to be quiet at those times, and she was quiet immediately after I said it (weird). At other times (when I could handle it) I calmed her.
    She is 8 years old now, and always different at school. Quiet, only a few friends and she cries a lot about small things. When I tell her to get it together I seem to make it even worse (it gets me upset that she can’t seem to protect herself and I scream at her when she cries at those moments), and I don’t know what to do. Is it possible that her behaviour now is related to her past, with a depressed mom raising her?
    If anyone has any idea of what it could be (confusion, fear, ect.) or something I could do when she cries, I would really appreciate it.

  • hh

    hh

    August 29th, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    I´m so full of this! All I read doesn´t seem to work for me. I live in a South European country and maybe that is the reason why. I can´t stand my house, the laundry, cooking, having the boys always around me, having to deal with Playstation, disorder, bad habits and so on.

  • Bev

    Bev

    October 3rd, 2018 at 2:54 AM

    I realy don’t know how to start but iv lost my two other babies because I couldn’t control my stress level now I blame my to kids for their deaths and get very violent with them, I try to help myself and I don’t think that its working at all, because all I do is turn around and abuse alchol.im afraid that im going to loose my kids.

  • Marianne

    Marianne

    August 27th, 2019 at 12:42 AM

    I have bipolar and addiction issues. I lost my husband in 2015 when my son was 17 I have been out of control since . I’m wearing my son out and I feel so guilty but the depression wears me down.i used to be such a fun loving mother now I can hardly get out bed. I have been in treatment centers,hospitals and therapy. Deppression is so debilitating makes you feel like there is no hope . I try to do small things and give myself credit and not allow myself to think negative when possible . But the guilt is unbearable. My son is losing faith in me and says I’m hard to be around because of my negative energy. I try so hard I’m worried I will never get better

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