A spouse of a depressed parent is often consumed with simply keeping the family moving forward. Surviving, rather than thriving, becomes the goal. Things like hugging one’s children, normal routines, and time spent listening can all fall victim to the parent’s exhaustion as he or she struggles to keep the family on course. Here are suggestions from Let Me Sow Light: Living with a Depressed Spouse by Amy Viets and Bernadette Stankard (ACTA):
Discuss the depression regularly. It’s not enough to give an introductory explanation and assume the children understand. Every few weeks, talk about how the depression is affecting the family—and listen to concerns your children have. Children often believe they are the cause of the depression.
Hold tightly to the routines. When one parent is not even up to eating dinner with the family, shared mealtimes become a casualty of depression. Hold fast to routine, including shared meals, bedtime reading, visits with family and friends, church, and chores. “By sticking with routines, you will help your child to see that, no matter what is happening, life will go on,” say Viets and Stankard.
Hug them. A parent depleted from service to a depressed spouse has to reach deep into reserves to make sure they continue to touch their children daily. This is incredibly important. When children are deprived of physical touch during a difficult time in their lives, their emotional growth can be stunted, putting them at risk for depression later, the authors say.
By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for four years running. Here’s a sample issue.
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