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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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