When a father is struggling with depression, it can have a far-reaching impact on his life, the development of his children, and even place his job in jeopardy.
The effect of a father’s depression on his children
Depressed dads may have difficulty bonding with their baby
After a child is born, it can be stressful for both parents. Mothers have an advantage when it comes to bonding which can leave some men feeling left out. Add into the mix a father who is depressed, and it is a recipe for a failure to bond.
When a man is depressed, he is less likely to hold his baby. He may also feel very overwhelmed and may even avoid time at home. Some men may even turn to alcohol or even working long hours to cope with their lack of connection.
The first few months are paramount to a child’s development, and a lack of paternal bonding can lead to the child being delayed in reaching its milestones.
Fathers who are depressed are less likely to read to their children
One clear disadvantage to the child with a depressed father is that they tend to read to them less than their non-depressed counterparts. A lack of reading in the first few years of life can lead to a lower vocabulary by age two.
This effect was seen in a child’s development regardless whether the mother was depressed or not which only shows how important having an involved father can be.
Being depressed can lead to more irritability
Men who are depressed are more likely to experience increased irritability and agitation than they are feelings of sadness. Fathers who are depressed are almost four times more likely to spank or hit their children than fathers who are not depressed. Children are also more likely to develop emotional and behavioral issues.
Having a role model with a low tolerance for frustration and difficulty expressing anger, can lead to a mirroring effect in children. One cannot expect a child to process disappointment and frustration if their parents are unable to do the same.
After all, children learn most from what they see and what is modeled to them by their parents.
Help is available
The good news is that there are things you can do to boost your mood, decrease your irritability, and improve your relationships with other.
Some things you can do to help fight off depression include:
- Eat healthy- often times we are drawn to unhealthy foods when our mood is low. (There’s a reason they are called comfort foods.)
- Exercise- it’s a natural way to release dopamine, which is often referred to as a ‘feel good’ chemical.
- Get more/better sleep- a tall order for any one with a new baby, I know. However, improving sleep hygiene can help.
- Talk about it- seek support from other fathers, friends, family, and your partner. If you’re not feeling like yourself, be open with those you love.
- Seek expert help- talk to your doctor or seek the assistance of a licensed mental health professional.
Suffering in silence rarely leads to resolution. In fact, more often than not, untreated depression only gets worse. If you think you may be struggling with depression, I urge you to give me a call.