As a life-long anxiety sufferer, I know that caring for my mental health has to be a top priority. If I don’t keep up with the things that temper my anxiety (which for me, means exercise, meditation, and psychotherapy), I suffer the consequences.
In fact, since having kids, there have been times that it has been nearly impossible to keep up with it all. After falling off the therapy wagon for a few years, I recently needed to start up again because my anxiety had spiked, and I knew that if I didn’t take care of it soon, I would once again be in the land of daily panic attacks, agoraphobia, and all the horrible symptoms that come when my anxiety gets out of control.
But what I didn’t realize was how deeply my anxiety was impacting my kids. Within a few weeks of therapy and feeling better, I noticed that I was better able to handle my own kids’ emotions and behavior — and that my kids were just generally acting calmer, less whiny, and more even-tempered.
Pretty amazing, huh?
And apparently, it’s not just me. A new study published in Development and Psychopathology confirms that this as a common phenomenon — that treating a mother’s mental health has a direct and positive effect on her kids.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Mt. Hope Family Center and the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development, looked at young mothers who were exhibiting signs of major depression. After receiving “interpersonal psychotherapy” (a 12-16 week intensive, highly-focused therapy program), these mother were found to fare better than the control group, who did not receive the therapy, but who merely received therapy referrals.
Not only that, but their children showed signs of improvement across a whole spectrum of developmental criteria. Treating the depression of each other made them more responsive to their children…