Dealing with depression and anxiety in parents

In early childhood education you obviously work closely with children on a daily basis, but you can also develop relationships with one or both parents or the family of the children in your care. Some of the children in your centre may be very young, or some may have siblings born around the time they are in your care and while some parents enjoy their role as mum or dad from the very beginning, others can be overwhelmed by the changes and challenges of parenthood, particularly in the early years. The first experiences of postnatal depression are commonly believed to affect mothers in the days and weeks after birth. While this is true, it’s important to be aware that depression and anxiety can become apparent right through the first year after having a baby and can affect both mums and dads.

PND is more common than you think

With postnatal depression and anxiety experienced by more than 1 in 7 new mums, and 1 in 10 news dads, it can benefit families greatly to have some extra support. Beyondblue explains that early parenthood can be incredibly rewarding but also one of the most challenging.

Know the signs of depression and anxiety

Postnatal depression can impact the children in your care, as when affected by it mum or dad’s emotional and mental health may cause them to withdraw, be irritable or particularly sensitive. Here are some other signs and symptoms from PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia):

  • Panic attacks (a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings)
  • Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health or wellbeing of baby
  • The development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
  • Memory problems or loss of concentration (‘brain fog’)
  • Constant sadness or crying
  • Increased alcohol or drug use

How you can help an individual with depression and anxiety

As an early childhood educator, you might find you need to pay particular attention to any children from the suffering family who are in your care. Ensure that they are being cared for adequately and monitor the impact of their parent/s’ postnatal depression on the children.

Depending on your relationship with the family, you might like to try the following:

  • In private, ask how they are feeling or if they need to talk
  • Discuss childcare options so one or both parents can have a break
  • Reassure them that they are not alone and help is available
  • Provide some resources – a GP, PANDA, and Beyondblue as a few suggestions

You are not responsible for supporting families of the children in your care, however caring beyond compliance can help you to go above and beyond to provide the best start in life possible to the children in your care.

For information about starting a rewarding career in early childhood education, take a look at Selmar’s course options.

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