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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsIt's crucial for parents to look after their own needs and to be able to look after themselves, especially when they're trying to support their child with depression. Research shows us that actually a lot of parents don't take time out for themselves and don't look after themselves when their child has depression. It's almost as if they put their life on hold, and they feel they need to be there for their child and not be there for themselves. And some parents actually also say that they feel really guilty about doing things for themselves. There's a number of things that parents can do to look after themselves. First of all, just taking some time out for themselves is really important.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 secondsSecondly, I think looking after their own health. And thirdly, doing the things that they really enjoy and that they find meaningful. And this might have a really good effect on the way that they're able to manage their child and manage the stress of that situation. But also, very importantly, it does model to the child that it is OK to do activities and things that you really enjoy, and it's OK to put yourself first from time to time.

Expert's view: Look after yourself

In this video we hear Dr Monika Parkinson discuss the importance of remembering to look after yourself when caring for a depressed young person. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, other mental health difficulties or stress, and are not already receiving support we urge you to do something about it.

In recent studies (1, 2) researchers have discovered that there are some particular areas of concern for parents of depressed teens and that parents have to deal with a lot of stress in general in these situations. The main issues included:

  • Lack of awareness of the depression
  • Living with constant uncertainty
  • Emotional turmoil
  • Trying to find a reason for the depression
  • Feeling helpless and frustrated
  • Trying to cope with a ‘changed’ son or daughter and the impact on family
  • Not dealing with own emotions and needs
  • Change in parenting approaches

Research (3) also shows us that there appears to be a link between parental depression and child depression. The reasons for this are not well understood and are very complex but it’s another important reason why parents need to look after themselves and their own mental health.

You may feel that by asking for help yourself you’re somehow not being strong enough for the family. In fact, this may be the best thing that you can do for yourself and for your family. The better you feel, the more able you’ll be to support those who need you. Your young person may have been worrying about you and if you show them that the right things are being put in place for you, this will reduce their worry and help them to focus more on getting well too. On another level, you’ll also be showing your teenager that it’s OK to have these types of problems and it’s fine to ask for help. This is a fantastic message to be sending out.

You may also be experiencing a number of other difficulties and stresses, whether these are financial, wider family, work place issues, housing, or domestic violence. Again, we urge you to seek the most appropriate forms of help for these difficulties, and to problem-solve any issues that you haven’t yet found a solution for. Involve others as much as possible. The more in control and calm you can be, the better placed you’ll be to support your teenager.

References

1) Stapley, E., Midgley, N., & Target, M. (2015). The Experience of Being the Parent of an Adolescent with a Diagnosis of Depression. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25 (2) pp. 618-630. Please note this journal article is behind a pay wall.

2) Armitage, S., Parkinson, M., & Reynolds, S. (publication in preparation). Mothers’ experiences of having an adolescent child with depression: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. If you’d like a copy of this article contact us at the AnDY Research Clinic.

3) Gunlicks, M.L., & Weissman, M.M. (2008). Change in Child Psychopathology With Improvement in Parental Depression: A Systematic Review. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47:4. pp. 379-389.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

University of Reading