A Child’s Silent Cry: Being Raised By Parents With Depression

Even though we live in a society where we often hear the word “Depression”, the subject still remains one of the most stigmatized illnesses; this is the result of ignorance on what depression actually is, and the desire to run away from our own wounds--“If I tell myself, I am all about rainbows and unicorns, it shall be and no one will think less of me”–that seems to be the way by which millions of people function every day while suffering in silence, but does that mode of operandum actually work? Psychologists respond with a resounding “No”for one cannot heal what one denies.

Add to the above, the fact that we live in a society which promotes constant stimulation, which means people nowadays confuse productivity with simply running around “trying” to get things done. Plus, social media with is constant B.S of “perfect” moments; where those who choose to share more than just these “illusions” of perfection are often mocked; only compounds the problem. Social media can be a wonderful tool for self expression, sharing, teaching; however, it is not life as is all the time–we all have good and bad days. To top it off, some of us make the mistake of putting so much on our plate or letting others put so much on our plate, that by the end, we are simply “burnout” and this often leads to depression, for our mind and body was never designed to be treated robotically.

If depression is hard to understand for adults, imagine how much harder it is for children to understand, much less have an idea of how to handle it. What happens when a child is being raised by a parent or parents who battle with depression?…

Children who are raised by a parent or parents who battle with depression or PTSD, often feel lost and suffer a lot in silence. Because children tend to internalize, they see themselves as the “cause” for the parent’s sadness, fear or anger.

Many parents who battle with depression want to “shelter” their children, as such they choose to hide their battle from them. This is admirable, but in reality it is not the best thing to do; however, it is certainly better than the parent who doesn’t care for the well being of the offspring and simply demands all attention by victimizing themselves in front of their children; often such action is the result of wanting someone to validate the pain, anger, etc.–Children are under no position mentally, spiritually or physically to validate an adult. The best course of action is to find the happy medium; one where you as a parent don’t have to hide from your child the fact that you battle with depression, but also not overexposed them to things which are beyond their comprehension and certainly not their responsibility.

Children have a very vibrant imagination, failure to understand their surroundings often leads to them “filling in the gaps”, where they will formulate their own misconceived conclusions; such conclusions often lead to a child blaming himself for what is happening. The child will start to see his or herself as “damaged” and less valuable–otherwise why would their parent be sad?–This is the beginning of eroding the self esteem of an individual.

I know talking about depression with a child can be difficult and scary; after all, a responsible loving parent will always want to be the main compass or anchor for the child; yet how does one accomplish this when one is feeling “lost”?… The reality is this, first be gentle with yourself. You as a parent aren’t “lost” all the time. Secondly–don’t buy the lie–although at times as parents we may feel as if everyone else is doing it right and we are not, take a step back and realize there is no such a thing as a perfect parent or family….ALL families are dysfunctional to some degree or another–no exceptions. Therefore, don’t add extra guilt on your plate that doesn’t belong; we are all human, we all make mistakes, we all have good and bad days and we are all here trying to figure out life–you are not the only one. On the contrary, Kudos to you for having the guts to choose to heal your depression and still do the best you can to be there for your children, helping them understand what you are going through has nothing to do with them. It is imperative you remind them time and time again, that they are not the cause of it and that you are doing your best.

Explaining depression can be hard, but it is important the child feels there is communication and that they are valued and respected enough to have a parent explain what is going on. Many of these children will still grow up with a lot of sadness in them, but studies have shown those who grew up understanding they were not the cause of the pain in the household, often tend to grow up to be more functional adults with a much integrated personality than those who grew up blaming themselves.

So, how does one explain depression to a child? There is no one right answer–you know your child better than anyone and your sadness. Imagine you were your child’s age, what would it take for you to “understand” what is happening around you and still feel loved? –that’s the place you want to start. Not too long ago, I came across a beautiful piece of writing which I feel might help in these situations. In my opinion, it explains depression from place of love and kindness to self, a valuable lesson to any child. Let me share it with you…

In Irish, when you talk about “emotion”/ “depression”, you don’t say… “I am sad”, you would say “sadness is on me”–I love that, for there is the implication of not identifying with the emotion fully, not letting it control you. It means, I am not sad but sadness is with me for just a “while”…that means, something else will be on me at another time; another emotion, a happier emotion. This teaches children that emotions are powerful and should be listen to, learn from and validated. It also teaches children one is not the emotion, and whether sad or happy, all emotions are transient, they are not the core of self. One is not depressed, one is experiencing depression and it will pass.

I love the fact one can use the above way of talking about depression to emphasize love...for example I can explain depression to my child using the Irish way of explaining it and then add “sadness may come and go but I will always be your mommy and I will always be there for you. I may not always know how to be or how to express myself, but I promise you that I will try my best, because if there is a reason for me to try to heal…it is you. You are the greatest gift. Sadness may come and go but my love for you will always remain”

I hope this article helps you be kinder with yourself while also giving you the strength to look at your children, to hold your children lovingly and explain to them that they are not the cause of your sadness; is just that sadness due to unhealed wounds visits you for a bit on and off.

I honestly believe if we start looking at our “negative” emotions without stigma, without ignorance, and accepting them as guides rather than enemies, we will get much further ahead; for when you fight the emotion, you are only fighting yourself.

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By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!

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