Mental or emotional distress in parents is a cause of concern and an inherent risk factor for children. It greatly affects their childhood and upbringing, causing a lasting impact on their mental health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 14 children have parents suffering from severe mental health issues. Around 21 million children are struggling with problems such as depression and anxiety.
The survey indicates that these kids’ poor mental health is directly connected with the compromised state of mind of either one or both of their parents.
If you are facing a similar crisis due to depression and fear that you may lose your child to social services that may accuse you of bad parenting, keep reading this article.
Can Social Services Take Your Child?
Do social services have the right to take your child’s custody if you are depressed?
Yes and No, because it depends on individual circumstances, the severity of your depression, and the impact on your child. So, be assured that social services can only take your child when no other viable option exists.
Before intervening to protect your child, social services will need strong reasons. However, necessary action would be taken if the child’s safety is found to be at risk because of you or your mental health problems.
Social Services can take your children in protective custody for the following reasons:
- Lack of medical care
- Lack of basic rights and resources needed for living a decent life
- Sexual abuse or assault
- Domestic violence
- Death of parents
- Emotional abuse
- Deliberate child abandonment
- Terminally ill parents
- Parents in prison serving long, harsh sentences
- Parents issuing death threats to children
- Violent, potentially dangerous outbursts
It’s worth keeping in mind that how you treat your child can leave a long-term impact on your child’s mental health, which, in turn, will greatly affect their behavior in the future.
Childhood Trauma due to Depressed or Mentally Affected Parents
Your child has to bear the brunt of growing up in the midst of family conflicts, divorced parents, physical or mental abuse, violence, and deep psychological distress. Sadly, the consequences could sometimes be irreversible.
Below are Some of the Effects of Childhood Trauma:
- Deep childhood trauma that continues through adolescence and adulthood affects your child’s personal and professional life in the long run.
- Might avoid going home to stay away from domestic abuse or mental stress due to conflicts at home.
- Development of depressive symptoms
- Tendency to reduce social interactions and wallow in misery.
- Finding relief through drugs and alcohol
- Suicidal thoughts
- Potential to harm others due to frustration and mental anguish
- Tendency to skip school and study frequently
- Severe PTSD
- Development of various anxiety disorders
The above side effects can certainly escalate into more serious trouble for you and your children. So, you, as parents, are responsible for their protection and ensure their physical and mental well-being.
If your child does not feel safe around you, chances are social services might have to take charge to rescue your child from you. So, it calls for a holistic approach to dealing with your depression.
You need to reach out for help before your mental health issues jeopardize your children.
Evidence is Key
Social services will need enough proof to back up their case before taking your children into custody. The team will conduct thorough evaluations to verify the allegations before they decide to take your child from you.
If a major depressive disorder causes your depressive symptoms, and you can’t take good care of your children, social services can involve the family court against you.
In case of an unfair investigation, you can even hire legal counsel to escalate the matter, disprove allegations, and prevent social services from taking your child.
Parenting With or Without a Mental Illness
Children have fragile brains that can’t process complex emotions. At this stage of their life, their brains are vulnerable and stubborn, so they can easily misinterpret and twist emotions. Unfortunately, they carry the feeling with them for the rest of their lives – like a bullet in their spine.
So, you must use good parenting skills to deal with your children going through this crucial phase of brain development.
Most importantly, do not dismiss your child’s suffering due to your mental illness as collateral damage. Even if your child is genetically predisposed to certain mental conditions, the right parenting can go a long way and help you raise your kids responsibly.
Avoid Harsh Parenting When Depressed
This style of parenting is a big no-no! Instead, try alleviating your depression to become more emotionally available to your children.
Strict parenting of your children is important. But if your approach lacks warmth and sensitivity, your children are never encouraged but instead forced to behave a certain way. So, the key is to treat your depressive symptoms and heal from the inside so your kids enjoy your company.
When growing up, you do not want them to miss out on values such as trust, compassion, empathy, kindness, positive reinforcement, etc., needed to sustain stable personal relationships.
Without these qualities, children tend to turn into bullies or adults with excessively bad temper and bottled-up emotions, making them prone to frequent emotional outbursts. So, treat yourself first and be good to your kids.
Taking Care of Your Children When Battling Depression
Even though you are depressed, you must do the balancing act and prevent your child’s negative emotions from flaring up. The question is how? It’s possible only if you take conscious steps to find a remedy for your depressive symptoms.
Remember, you risk adding more stress to your child’s already disturbed life by not taking your depression seriously.
Therefore, you must find the right balance between being authoritarian and dismissive.
Below are some of the things you can do when caring for your children while battling depression:
- Take care of yourself as a priority.
- Be gentle with yourself and your kids.
- Build a solid support system among all the people you deeply trust.
- Be practical and employ paid resources if you can afford to get extra help in proper childcare.
- Always have an emergency backup in case your symptoms intensify out of the blue.
- Local social care providers should be involved.
- Keep your close friends, parents, and general practitioner in the loop throughout your treatment duration.
If the thought that social services will take away your child from you because you have been suffering from depression is keeping you worried, fret not! They can’t take your child unless they have strong enough reasons to do so, some of which I have mentioned in this article.
That said, you need to find a solution to your mental problem so it doesn’t negatively impact your child’s impressionable mind.
She is an experienced Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Writer with a decade of expertise in psychology. Skilled in assessment, therapy, and patient care. Committed to helping individuals through clinical practice and mental health writing at Therapyjourney.co. Passionate about promoting mental well-being and awareness. Open to aligned opportunities.