Depression can have a serious impact on anyone – sapping a person's energy, confidence and overall happiness. Even worse, people suffering from depression can often transfer this negative attitude to people around them, weakening relationships with friends, coworkers and family members who might otherwise offer support.
Unfortunately, this ripple effect can pose an even greater problem to the emotional and intellectual development of the children of a depressed parent. A recent study by Dr. Michael Weitzman of New York University found that children of a depressed father are 70 percent more likely to develop emotional or behavioral problems than their peers. However, depression remains a highly treatable condition and does not spell doom for children of suffering dads.
Depression can cause parents to lose focus or interest in their children's activities and be less responsive when confronted with parental responsibilities. This lack of attention can spread to the other parent as they attempt to comfort and deal with a depressed spouse. As such, families dealing with a depressed mom or dad should look to relatives, friends or their community for support in raising their children. A supportive grandparent or uncle can provide extra structure for children, as well as responsive and loving emotional support.
Children of any age may feel uncertain or anxious about their parent's depression. Kids are often unsure of what depression is or worry that they're somehow the cause. It's important for families dealing with depression to create an open dialogue between parents and children to address the issue. By doing this, children can understand depression as an illness, not a reaction to bad behavior or disappointment. This can also open up greater avenues for support and conversation about depression for both children and parents.