How Other Children Are Affected by PPD
Many parents are concerned about how their children will react when their family welcomes a new baby. But parents suffering from postpartum depression have a new set of concerns regarding their other children.
Even if a child is still at toddler age, postpartum depression can affect them too. Children can sense a change in a family dynamic. They can feel tension between their parents or be aware of their mother’s symptoms.
Here’s a look at some of the common problems other children face when their parents are dealing with postpartum depression.
A mother’s challenges and a new baby at home can cause other children to feel isolated despite their parents’ best efforts. The mother’s withdrawal can make other children confused, anxious or guilty. Children may spend less time with the family as these feelings build. It is important for parents to be aware of these potential problems so that they can also support their other children during this time.
Children of any age may be confused about why their parents behave differently. It may be difficult for them to understand or accept that their mother is facing a health challenge. When children are confused about their mother’s suffering, it builds anxiety and guilt within them.
It can also be expected that many children, no matter the age, may suffer from anxiety, worry or fears regarding their mother’s symptoms and her overall health. Though children may not express it, parents and other family members need to be sensitive to any signs of anxiety their other children are facing.
Children will often feel guilt when their parents exhibit behaviors they aren’t used to. They may also blame themselves and feel as though it is somehow their fault that their mother is suffering.
Communicating with your other children and explaining that they are not to blame for their mother’s postpartum depression can help support them through this tough time.
How to Support Other Children
While it is important to support other children during this time, it is also equally as important not to keep them in the dark. If they are old enough to observe symptoms, they are old enough to understand at a certain level.
Gently but confidently explain to your other children that their mother is struggling with a medical condition. Let them know that she is receiving treatment and that she will get better. Reassuring them that she is in recovery and that it will eventually heal is vital in ensuring that children do not take on their own anxiety.
Here are some other ways to help support children whose parents are affected by postpartum depression:
If children are school-aged, it may be necessary to inform teachers of their mother’s condition. Because some children may display different characteristics and behaviors, communication with teachers can also help them support your children.
Making Time for Other Children
Because children may feel a combination of confusion or isolation, it’s important to still make time for them so they don’t feel neglected. Regularly set aside time with your other children to ensure that they are also receiving the care and support they need.
Postpartum depression is also known to have a depression-like effect on other children. If your other children exhibit any signs of their own depression or anxiety, it’s important to seek professional help for them as well. Watch for signs in other children such as:
- Anxiety and worry
- Withdrawing and isolating themselves
A physician or mental health care provider can help further identify possible symptoms of depression or anxiety in your children. From there, a professional can help to prescribe or recommend treatment or further therapy specifically for children.