The way you behave and interact with your children plays a big role in their mental health. But, it’s important to know just how much you can influence them in the long run.
“There is a long established relationship between parent and child mental health problems,” says Marcy Burstein, a clinical psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health.
She says children of parents with anxiety disorders are four to six times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Meanwhile, children of parents with depression are three to four times more likely to develop depression.
Beginning when they’re an infant, children look to parents to understand their reality of the world. They pick up on all of your verbal and nonverbal cues, and pay attention more than you may think.
However, this doesn’t mean you always need to look calm. It’s good to acknowledge whatever it is you’re feeling, with your kids, in an age-appropriate way. Talking about anxiety and depression can be great for a number of things. For one, talking to your kids normalizes these feelings and shows children that it’s okay to acknowledge and express them. Second, being open with your kid will ensure them that your stress and anxiety, is not their fault. Finally, it’ll benefit your kids in the long run by teaching them how to deal with hard feelings on their own.
Having these kinds of conversations can be as simple as “Mommy is stressed, and just doesn’t have it in her to cook tonight. Let 's order some take-out instead.” The problems you’re having may not improve, but your ability to cope with them does.