Question: How does a child's depression affect other members of the family?
Answer: Well, depression in children affects everybody in the family. We know, in fact, that depression runs in families and that the manifestation of a depression is really the result of interactions between genes and the environment.
So that first, parents may be very empathic with their child who suffers a depression because either they or a family member have suffered depression. Secondly, we know that certain negative cognitive coping skills or ways of trying to deal with stress run in families and can either manifest in a depression, or worsen symptoms of a depression.
We also know that negative events within families -- neglect, abuse, stress, major changes, financial changes, things such as divorce, loss of loved ones -- those types of situations can affect depression.
So, it's also important to realize that having a child suffering a depression is an extraordinarily stressful event for the parents and for the siblings.
We need to make room as we treat the child for the parents to be able to get some relief as well. And often, some of their relief comes with the relief of the symptoms of depression in their child.
But we need to help them and support them in manifesting positive coping skills, positive outlooks, positive attitudes, and really create an environment and a culture of hope.
Also for parents to consider is the impact on other siblings. Frequently, parents get so focused on the child who's suffering from depression that they may inadvertently overlook or not pay as much attention to the other siblings. It's important for the parents to make room for those other siblings and actively take a role to make time for those siblings, either to do the activities that they enjoy, as well as to process how the depression or the depressive symptoms in the one sibling is affecting them.
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