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What Can A Depressed Parent Say to Their Child?

depressedIt’s difficult to hide the tears when you are a depressed parent—sometimes you can’t.[1] Children dislike seeing their parents suffer. Therefore, how do you respond when your children ask you why you’ve been crying? How do you explain depression to them? Here are seven things you can say to your child when you are depressed:

  1. Your Loved One is Sick. Children do not understand depression, but they do understand what it means to be sick.1 Depression is like any other illness.1 The messengers inside of the brain that deliver notes from one side to the other get stuck.1 It’s similar to when a child has to bring in a permission slip from a parent to a teacher.1 If the note was never delivered, the teacher wouldn’t know what to do.1 Depression is the same kind of thing: messages get stuck and the person becomes sad.1
  2. Depression is Invisible. Children find depression confusing because it is invisible.1 Their loved one looks perfectly normal, so it is often difficult for them to believe their parent is sick.1 Explain to them that depression is like a hidden picture in a poster.1 What they see on the outside isn’t all that is there.1 You can’t see it, but it still exists.1
  3. You Are Not to Blame. Children fear that their parents are sad because of something that they did.1 They need to be reassured that your depression is not their fault.1 When a parent goes over numbers one and two, they need to reassure the child that their depression has not been caused by anything they’ve done.1 It is easy for the child to blame themselves for something that they didn’t do.1
  4. It’s Okay to Cry. Children should understand that crying is good for you—just like eating your fruits and veggies.1 When you cry, all the bad things that are bottled up deep inside come out through tears and leaves your insides healthier.1
  5. Don’t Take it Personally. Sometimes, people who are depressed say things that they don’t mean.1 It is like how a teacher doesn’t want their student to say certain things, but every once in a while, a bad day comes around and the student says them anyways.1 However, people who are depressed don’t have a teacher to correct them.1 It’s not something to take personally—the depressed person is just upset that they do not feel good.1
  6. You Are Still Loved. When a parent is grumpy, it is easy for a child to think that they no longer love them.1 Their actions speak louder than words.1 As hard as it may be, depressed parents need to try to control their depressed feelings in front of their children and say “I love you.”1
  7. Depression Can Be Treated! Depression is easily treated, and there is a great chance that the parent will feel better quite soon.1 They may need a few weeks or a few months, with medicine and therapy, but it won’t be long before they are back to the happy and energetic parent their children know and love.1


[1] Borchard, T. (2013). 7 Things a Depressed Parent Can Say to a Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 13, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/13/7-things-a-depressed-parent-can-say-to-a-child/

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