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What Does a Parent’s Mental Health Have on Children?

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When a parent is struggling with mental health, the entire family feels the effects. And it can have an immeasurable impact on children in their formative years.

If you're a parent who struggles with mental health, first understand that you're not alone. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults, which equates to 3.1 percent of the population.

You should also know that women are twice as likely to be affected as men, and most people are suffering without treatment.

In this post, we’re going to cover the impact of a parent’s mental health on the children. And if you’re struggling with mental health issues, understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Help is available.

Direct Impact of a Parent’s Mental Health on Children

Science tells us that if you struggle with mental health issues, there’s a chance it’s genetic. This means that your children may be genetically predisposed to the same mental health issue.

According to information from Stanford Medicine, there is a genetic component to depression. Scientists have evaluated depression in identical and non-identical twins and found that it's much more likely for identical twins to both suffer from depression than fraternal twins who only share about 50 percent of their genes. This may mean that about 50 percent of depression's cause is genetic, and 50 percent is psychological or physical. Or it may mean that in some cases, depression is genetic, and in some cases, it's not. Researchers are still studying the connection, but we can see that genetics do play some role in depression and other mental health issues.

Indirect Impact of a Parent’s Mental Health on Children

When a parent suffers from a mental illness, the family is more likely to be at a socio-economic disadvantage and/or endure marital conflict. And these things can have profound effects on the children.

Mental illness can interfere with the child's ability to form healthy attachments, which can impact so many developmental milestones and have an impact on the child's cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral development.

When we struggle with our mental health as parents, we tend to see it as a personal issue, but it's an issue that can have a significant and lasting impact on our children. They need us to be whole and healthy in order to meet their needs, and that's difficult to do with any mental illness.

How to Handle Mental Illness in the Family

If you or your spouse is suffering from mental illness, a licensed therapist can help you personally and help you work through the ripple effect the mental illness may have within your family.

It may also be helpful to know that many people with mental health issues end up self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or even food, which makes a bad situation worse. Drugs and alcohol can lead to serious addictions that will only worsen a mental health issue. And eating the wrong foods can also exacerbate the issue. If you're eating highly processed and sugary foods, your diet is sabotaging your physical and mental health.

Especially with mental health issues like depression and addiction, our instincts may tell us to hide the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. But family addiction counseling and therapy can change the course of your children’s lives for the better.

If you’re struggling with any mental health issue, don’t try to go it alone. Talk to your doctor about potential treatments and explore family counseling. We don’t have to be perfect to be parents, but we can do everything in our power to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.