Talking to children about a parent's depression as a non-family caregiver.
May 27, 2009 7:54 PM Subscribe
How do you talk to young children about a parent's depression?
posted by Felicity Rilke to human relations (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I began providing childcare this week for the five-year-old son of a woman I know through one of my local drop-in centres. She is suffering from severe depression and is unable to care for her son. Dad works long days and isn't entirely equipped to step in as primary caregiver, which is why I am helping out.
I am uncertain how much the boy knows/has been told about his mom's illness. He knows that mommy is sad, he knows that she's been in the hospital. This morning when I was getting him ready for school, he asked why his mom wasn't there to say goodbye (the previous two mornings, she got up to give him a hug and kiss before he left). I explained that she needed to spend a little time with her doctors so they could help her feel better (this is her second hospitalization in a little more than a week). He accepted this and moved on to another subject without any questions, which worries me more than if he asked about it.
I know that the kid is scared and confused about what's happening. His behaviour is changed (he's not acting out, rather, he's on his best behaviour, which is unusual since he generally has a healthy amount of the naughty). Since he's spending the majority of his waking hours with me, I'd like to know how I should talk to him about what's going on. Should I encourage discussion or wait until he brings it up? How much information should I give him? What do I tell him when he asks when his mom will be back?
The facilitator of the drop-in centre is arranging for a school social-worker to help out, but I don't know how long that will take to get in place. In the meantime, I'd like to know what I can do to help the boy understand and adjust to this situation.
(Any advice on how to help support the mother as she goes through this is also appreciated.)