Mothers and fathers often report coming to terms with the diagnosis of a genetic condition in different ways.

It is important not to stereotype. However, understanding different responses may help couples be more considerate of each other’s feelings and not feel upset, confused or angry by their partner’s reaction to your child’s illness.

Men are more likely to focus on gaining as much information as possible, from as many sources as possible as a way of processing the diagnosis.

They might try to find a solution or merely gain knowledge by researching the genetic condition, looking for a second opinion, planning and thinking about a way forward.

Women may appear to be more emotional – crying and needing to talk about their thoughts and feelings.

Women may worry about the diagnosis, the implications for the future for their unborn child, other existing children, themselves and their relationship with their partner.

This can increase a woman’s risk of depression.

Conversation is an important part of many women’s natural processing mechanism.

Talking to their partner, friends and family in itself reduces the risk of depression.

Many men in situations of stress and grief tend to be more solution focused, not wishing to talk in the same way as women, or as much.

For some people the pain is so overwhelming – almost physical and palpable – that they feel unable to talk.

Try to empathise with each other’s ways of dealing with it. Don’t see your partner’s response as rejection or misunderstanding.

What can be problematic is when either parent goes into denial. They might refuse to talk at all about the diagnosis or possibly express their anger and stress in inappropriate ways. For example, being aggressive or drinking too much.

Communication in a relationship is important. Stating what your needs are is perfectly acceptable, saying how you feel is OK.

When this becomes personal criticism it can be hurtful to your partner.

For example: ‘I’m really struggling with this I would find it helpful if we could talk about some of the issues we are dealing with.’ Rather than: ‘You just don’t understand how I am feeling..’.

Some men may feel that they have to be strong for their partner and therefore hide their feelings but the partner may feel they have become distant.

The key is for both are to support each other and find support not just in their relationship but also from others. This is where talking to friends and family and or a counsellor can be helpful.

By Julie Johnson

Differences between male and female depression

Women with depression tend to:

Blame themselves

Feel sad, apathetic and worthless

Feel anxious and scared

Avoid conflicts at all costs

Feel slowed down and nervous

Have trouble setting boundaries

Find it easy to talk about self-doubt and despair

Use food, friends and ‘love’ to self-meditate

Men with depression tend to:

Blame others

Feel angry, irritable and ego inflated

Feel suspicious and guarde

Create conflict

Feel restless and agitated

Need to feel in control at all costs

Find it ‘weak’ to admit self-doubt and despair

Use alcohol, TV, sports and sex to self-meditate