How To Still Be A GREAT Parent When You're Depressed

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How to Still Be a Great Parent When You Have Depression
Family, Self

“Can you decide to get better now?”

First, I’d like to say…

I can never fully understand your pain and what you’re going through. It must be very scary and lonely, and yet most people, when they feel like this, do get better. And I know that you deserve to feel better.

Sometimes, it helps to talk to someone who can help you realize how good, smart and valuable you are. I already know that about you. I believe it is possible for you to help yourself and get well, because on the other side of pain, there is happiness and joy that is eagerly expecting your arrival.

But in the meantime, you can still be a great parent while you’re recovering. Here is what I’d suggest:

  • Be honest, with yourself: Accept that you need help and seek it.
  • Communicate with your partner: Depression is a health challenge and you can deal with it as a team.
  • Keep your kids in the loop: They deserve it, and besides, they can sense a fake smile a mile away and it’s very confusing for them. It’s always better to be real and demonstrate to our kids how we overcome life’s challenges.

But before any of that, there’s one single, important decision that only you can make…  

I remember when my little girl was four years old and she was diagnosed with a life-threatening bleeding disorder. It was only after several months of countless blood tests, steroid shots and hospitalizations combined with alternative healing techniques that she gradually began to recover.

But just as she was getting better, my beloved grandmother passed away.

That’s when I crashed to the bottom of a murky grotto of depression. I was deeply hurt, damaged to my core; it seemed like the people I loved the most either got sick or left me. I stopped believing that it was possible for me to smile and trust life ever again, and I felt like no one could help me.

Then one day, my close friend visited me, and as I was crying about how I couldn't shake this horrible feeling of depression, and that no matter what I tried — herbs, acupuncture, medication, therapy… nothing helped.  


Just then, my daughter Jessica suddenly ran into the kitchen, seized my hand and said, "Yes, Mommy, you can! You can get better. You helped me, and now it’s your turn." 

Then she rushed to the refrigerator, grabbed an apple and brought it back to me. "Here, Mommy," she placed it in my hand. "It’s juicy and sweet; bite it. It will help you."

Smiling through my tears, I did, hugging my baby tightly. "I am sorry I’ve been sick, honey," I said. "Sometimes it just happens — we all get sick, from time to time."

"Can you decide to get better now?" Jessica asked, looking deep into my eyes.

At first, I thought, It’s not up to me; but then something deep within me whispered: Yes, it is.

And so I mumbled, "I think so..." realizing how powerful her question was.

"Go play, sweetie," I prompted my girl, and turning to my friend, I asked, "She’s right, isn’t she? It’s time for me to decide. What do I want? To live fully or stay depressed?"

And at that moment, even though I didn’t have all the answers, I made a decision. And when the mind is presented with an intention, it becomes a resourceful tool, coming up with the right solution.

For me, it was to embark on a journey of exchanging the behavior of depression for happiness — the most important state of all.

Humans are creatures of habit, and we acclimate easily to what we practice the most. This is how we develop our comfort zones. Depression is one of those zones—dark and lonely, yet familiar.

So it’s awkward, at first, to introduce a foreign state: happiness. But only because it has not been practiced… yet.

So little by little, I began. Every time I looked at my little girl, I’d smile, solidifying my decision. And I resolved to learn from her! Even though she was still recovering from her illness, she was bright, happy and alive!

So, I would join her in her play sessions with our kitten and her dolls; we’d build Lego castles together, paint each other’s toenails, and feed each other the ripest cherries.

At first, it seemed pointless. I felt numb and absentminded, but in time, my neoplastic brain began creating new pathways and adjusting its chemicals accordingly, yielding to my strong desire to feel better.

And I did!

Within weeks, I did start to feel better, creating a new, healthy cycle in my life; and as I felt better, I ate better, spending more time outside gardening, jogging, and just letting the warmth of life soothe and revitalize me.

And the best reward was to see my love for my daughter shining back at me through her deep green eyes.

It’s been seventeen years since then, and when life gets tough, I remind myself of that decision I made so long ago before I sink back into an old behavioral pattern.

I've had three more kids since then, and I join them in their happiness, following their cues, reminding myself that I was a happy kid too, once upon a time, and it’s up to me to maintain that innate spark of happiness. And yes, I am capable of doing it, because it’s just a habit.

And in my opinion, that’s what can make anyone — even when you’re depressed — a great parent. 

Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D., is a Medical Hypnotherapist and Holistic Consultant. She is the author of Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family. Call her for an office or phone consultation to attain mental-emotional alignment and close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Visit

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