Depression, like any other mental health illness, does not only affect the individual but may also have an impact on the person’s loved ones who are generally able to note and experience emotional and behavior changes in their relative. Relatives of individuals who suffer from mental health illnesses may not know how they can help and the chronic stress that is experienced by the relatives may give rise to mental health difficulties in different family members.
For many parents, being a parent is a wonderful experience but the role comes with great responsibility. Many parents suffering from mental health illnesses worry that their children may be affected negatively and that their children would also grow to suffer from the same illnesses. It is very understandable that parents have such concerns, however, one should note that children having parents who suffer from Depression or other mental health illnesses may still be able to grow healthily and happily if they receive the necessary support.
It is important for parents to seek treatment for Depression, not only for their own wellbeing but also for the wellbeing of their children who are easily able to pick up emotions and understand that their parents are unwell. Sometimes when someone in the family is unwell, children feel a great sense of responsibility that might not be adequate for their age. They might worry about what could happen to their parents and this might create anxiety and attachment difficulties.
These are some tips that may help you cope and in turn help increase resilience in your children:
- Help your children understand
Even though they might be young, they would benefit from knowing what is happening in the family. You don’t need to give lengthy explanations or go into detail, but explaining that there is a reason why you might sometimes lack energy or need to take medication (and explaining that you are working towards getting better) may help your children feel more contained.
- Model good behavior
If you are suffering from Depression or any other illness, it is important to take care of both your physical and mental health. It might be very difficult to do so, but maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in exercise a few times a week, can really make a positive difference. These healthy coping strategies will also teach your children how to take care of their wellbeing.
- Normalise and break the stigma
It is never too early to start teaching your children about health and wellbeing. Look for informative books or videos that are designed for children as these can support you to talk to your children about mental health. Psychoeducation can help them gain the correct knowledge and also help them understand that mental illness is very common and that it is ok to talk about it and seek support.
Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.