Most parents spend at least part of their parenting life wondering, “What will I do today that permanently screws up my kid in the future?!” Which to be honest, is probably a fair question if your last name is Kardashian…Honestly, though, it’s easy to worry or be self-conscious about our parenting skills. If anything, it’s a sign that you care for your child and want to do the best you can for them.
And if you’re the parent of a child with a chronic illness like cystic fibrosis, you can automatically add on several more layers of very real worry and stress as you juggle complex treatment regimens, routines, and lifestyle modifications.
It’s a lot of responsibility and very important for your child’s health and life—no pressure there, right?
Bottom line, any kind of stress—from good stress like buying a new car or house, to bad stress like financial crises or health issues—is going to have a physical and psychological effect. And because everyone deals with stress differently, some parents of kids with CF will naturally struggle with depression. That’s understandable and nothing to be ashamed of—but it does need to be addressed with a qualified healthcare professional. Not just for the parent’s sake, but for their child’s as well.
A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics underscores why this is so important for the parents of children with CF. The study looked at children who need to take enzyme supplements and follow strict nutritional guidelines to get the extra nutrition and energy they need to maintain a healthy weight and stave off illness and infections. Earlier studies have shown that, despite the importance of these supplements, adherence to enzyme treatments and dietary guidelines are way too low. Researchers long suspected that parental depression might have something to do with it, but never really had any data to back that up… until now.
The new study looked at a group of CF parents—about 48% of which suffered from clinical depression or symptoms of moderate depression—and followed their children’s adherence to their enzyme treatments over a three-month period. You can probably guess the results: Parents’ depression had a real and negative impact on their child’s adherence.Overall adherence wasn’t awesome to begin with—only 49% of the entire group stuck to the treatment—but children whose parents suffered from depression took their supplements more than five times fewer than those whose parents were not depressed.
Again, depression is NOT something to be ashamed of—but if there’s even a small chance it could impact your child’s health, please seek treatment for it. Much like CF, this isn’t something you should face alone.