This article, Depressed Parent’s Negative Effects on Kids are Combatable ,” appeared in the Sunday, March 14, Los Angeles Times. It points to the impacts of a parent’s undiagnosed, untreated (and not discussed in an effective, straightforward manner) depression on their children. Impacts include the consequences of the parents’ inconsistent expectations and discipline, role reversals (children comforting parent or trying to be strong for parent) and parental withdrawal. The impacts, themselves, included depression and anxiety disorders, poor coping skills, learned helplessness and poor social relations. BUT, the good news is that the effects of parental depression can be reversed in two key ways: 1) the parent getting the help they need, and 2) the family openly and honestly talking about what is going on and what is being done to fix it.
I bring this article to your attention because it parallels what happens to children as a result of a parent’s undiagnosed, untreated (and not discussed in an effective, straightforward manner) alcohol misuse. Those negative impacts are very similar to the ones described above, and they, too, can be reversed if: a) the parent seeks help, and b) the family starts opening and honestly talking about it.
The “talk” does not have to be complicated nor deep nor all-encompassing; nor do you have to have all of the answers at once. In fact, talking in spurts and often is better with children. Equally important will be to let your children talk to you — to let them tell you their feelings without having those feelings corrected, fixed or explained. The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health website has some terrific resources that can help.