Co-parenting with a partner who is depressed

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD offers suggestions for those dealing with a depressed partner
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Co-parenting with a partner who is depressed

Some of the people in my practice, their spouses are clinically depressed. They have a hard time getting out of bed, or they're always sad, or they're always complaining because of their depression and it can really affect their parenting. And it can make the person who's married to that person feel very resentful, burdened like they have to take on too much responsibility. So the first question that you have to ask is whether or not your partner's being clinically treated adequately and that has to become really your biggest goal because alot of times people are depressed and not getting either antidepressents, or they're not in therapy. They're not doing the kind of really basic things that people can do to go from being a depressed person to being a higher functioning person. So if you're married to somebody who's clinically depressed, be empathic about it, you know, you don't want to be, you know, critical. You want to say this has to be taken care of. It's not only affecting your ability to be a spouse to me, but it's also affecting your ability to be a parent. I'm telling you this because I love you and care about you, not because I'm judging you. That's critically important because a depressed person is going to hear that, um, as, you know, they're much more vulernable to hearing anything in a critical shaming way. In terms of the parenting, you probably will for the time being have to take on more of the parenting, so then your issue and your task is going to be managing the resentment, talking to yourself, making sure you're getting enough support helping your children understand that if the mother or father isn't involved that it's not because, they're not being rejected by their parent, but rather because that parent has an issue. There is some research to show that ongoing depression in a parent is harmful to kids, so this is something you should take very seriously.

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD offers suggestions for those dealing with a depressed partner


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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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