5 Things Every Child With A Depressed Parent Understands - by Guest Ally Golden


Ally Golden is the author of A Good Soldier, a memoir on the emotional toll of growing up with a mentally ill parent. It is available on Amazon and other online bookstores. Ally frequently writes and speaks on the impacts of mental illness on family life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, and the Atlantic. Ally is also an active volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention where she witnesses firsthand the devastating influence mental illnesses can have on the loved ones of the afflicted. To learn more about Ally, visit her website.


5 things every child with a depressed parent understands

1.     Not wanting friends over to your house

Not being sure what mental state your depressed parent is in makes bringing friends back to your house a daunting prospect. Depression can cause dramatic mood swings and irrational behavior. You do not want your friends to associate you with your parent’s psychological disorder. It is embarrassing to be from the same stock as someone a child may mistake as insane.

In my memoir, A Good Soldier, I recount the events of my 9th birthday party that was held in the unfinished basement of my childhood home. This was my first experiment with having friends over to my house. Hosting people was a stressful experience then, even though my mentally ill mother was not in attendance. At a certain point, I just wanted everyone to leave. I still remember frantically cleaning the basement after the party to ensure it was spotless before my Mom returned.

2.      Talking your parent out of bed

It is a common misconception that depression is extreme and drawn-out sadness. In reality, it is closer to a feeling of numbness and lack of energy. These symptoms often manifest themselves in extended periods in bed.

Unfortunately, as a child, you rely on your parents for transportation, shopping, and making meals – none of which can be accomplished from the security of the bedroom. This forces children with depressed parents to take the initiative to talk their parents out from under the covers, so that they can fulfill the most basic of parental responsibilities.

3.     Having to constantly self-censor

In normal families, parents try to control what information their child is exposed to, in order to ensure proper development. This can be seen through parents shielding their children from shocking news stories and R-rated movies. The roles are reversed in households with a mentally ill parent at the helm. These children learn to protect their parent’s mood by only sharing good news: good grades, compliments from teachers, and new friends.

Constantly putting up the façade of lighthearted positivity is exhausting. However, it is a sacrifice that many children are willing to make to keep their parents happy.

4.     Not having a parent at significant events

Whether it is a band concert, theatrical performance or sports game, most children take it for granted that their parents are in the audience watching and supporting. Children with a depressed parent do not have this same presupposition. They know that their parent’s attendance will be based on their mood and energy levels on the day of the event.

In the event that these children’s parent with depression does not show up, the presence of everyone else’s parents mocks them, serving as a visual representation of how their family dynamic is abnormal.

5.     Not wanting to be at home

Children of depressed parents do not have the same sense of security that most people have within the walls of their own house. These children know that the atmosphere of their home will depend on their parent’s mood and the extent to which their depressive symptoms are manifested. This creates an unstable and toxic environment that children will make every attempt to get away from: be it through visiting friends, joining extracurricular activities, or taking up a hobby.



Posted on September 10, 2018 .