Depressed Children and Teenagers

If you ask parents what they most want for their children, they'll almost always answer "happiness." Let's face it, when our kids are happy, we're happy. But what if you see that happiness begin to disappear in your child or teenager? What if your eight-year-old suddenly stops wanting to go outside and play with friends but instead wants to sit in his room alone? What if your once happy-go-lucky teenager breaks out in tears over any little thing and refuses to talk to you about it? What if you begin to see cuts on the wrist and arms of this same teenager? What if your child or teenager can no longer sleep well and always appears tired and without energy? And what if this same child or teen even begins to say things like: "I'm so stupid I wish I had never been born?" Or, "I wish I wasn't me," or even worse, "I wish I was dead." To further complicate things, how does a parent know if the child really means these things, or is just using them to manipulate?

Many parents who call my office to set up an appointment for their depressed child seem to have great difficulty even admitting that their child may be depressed. It is almost as if some parents actually feel ashamed of a child who is depressed, as if depression is a sign of weakness. Other parents blame themselves for not being a good enough parent. And then there are those parents who are just plain worried because, in the back of their mind is the nightmare thought that maybe, just maybe the child will get so depressed he or she will actually consider suicide. In any case, parents of depressed kids feel at such a loss on how to deal with the situation.

Parents of depressed children are usually desperate to help them get better, and they always want to know why their child is depressed. I tell them that there are three sources of depression that we have to look at closely. Some teenagers are depressed simply because of biological reasons. For them, medication can work wonders. But with most of the teenagers I see at my office, and virtually all of the younger children, there are other things going on. A major issue is external stress. Examples of this are getting bullied at school, rejected by peers, struggling academically, or being caught up in family tensions. Then there are the internal causes, such as poor self-concept, or perfectionism, or believing that life is not worth living if your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you.

If you have a depressed child or teenager, certainly you should seek professional help for him or her. There is ample research evidence that depression can be treated rapidly and effectively. The Depressed Child: A Parent's Guide for Rescuing Kids will help you plan the best course of treatment, as well as teach you what is likely going on in your child or teen's secret thoughts that is so drastically affecting his or her life. Rather than placing you in a role in which you sit passively by while other people treat your child, it teaches you how to actually help.

The book is not just for parents of children or teens who are already depressed. It is for any parent who has a true desire to learn how to view the world through their child's eyes so that depression never happens in the first place. Its approach is preventative and hopeful, and teaches parents that by careful watching and listening, our kids will indeed remain happy.

Reviewer comments of The Depressed Child:

From Publishers Weekly:
Clinical psychologist Riley (The Defiant Child) tackles a difficult subject with aplomb in this keenly insightful guide for parents. "For children and adolescents, the depressive state makes them feel like astronauts whose tethers have been cut, and they are drifting in space," he writes. He not only explains how to identify the symptoms of depression and the "negative beliefs" "no one will ever like me," "I am made of inferior stuff," "death is an option," and so on that are so often at its core, but also provides tools for what he terms "Planning the Rescue Mission." Ten brief but thorough chapters cover the most common negative beliefs that trigger depression and such companion problems as substance abuse, prematurely intense relationships (what he calls "miniature marriages") that blindside adolescents when they come to an end, and suicide. Riley illustrates each point with case studies that offer readers a chance to learn from his dialogues with his patients. He suggests strategies for everything from closing "the physical distance between you and your child" in order to soothe and encourage them, to some particular lines of questioning for uncovering negative beliefs, to the crucial, often overlooked act of listening ("your ears cannot be fully open until your mouth is fully shut"). He also discusses when to seek professional help and how to step in swiftly and effectively in the case of a suicidal child. Riley's advice is commonsensical and sound, and the concrete tools he offers in this slim, practical volume provide a lifeline to parents of any child struggling with depression. From Publishers Weekly Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Midwest Book Review:
The Depressed Child: A Parent's Guide To Rescuing Kids is a book written to empower parents who feel helpless in understanding the negative self-images and unhappy emotions that affect their children. Author Dr. Douglas Riley is a clinical psychologist who specializes in child and adolescent psychology, who has operated a private outpatient clinic since 1994; here, he presents parents with clear, detailed, easy-to-understand information about adolescent depression and what to do about it. Topics include how to overcome the "I'm inferior" myth; how to handle the "miniature marriage" phenomenon in teen dating relationships and providing consolation when these "marriages" fail; and how to evaluate and select from the methods to manage a child's depression. Sobering, powerful, and essential to understanding the mind of a depressed adolescent, The Depressed Child is highly recommended. From Midwest Book Review

The Depressed Child - Book Cover

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"This book not only describes the symptoms of depression, but also gives parents a plan to "rescue" their children. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is highly readable and understandable."
From an Amazon reviewer

"As someone who has experienced child and adolescent depression from both directions-having been a depressed child and the mother of a depressed adolescent-I couldn't stop my head from nodding in agreement with each "hopeless belief" Dr. Riley uncovered and addressed in his most recent book, The Depressed Child: A Parent's Guide for Rescuing Kids. I quietly folded the book back together after reading the last chapter, filled with a sense of reliefi. Help is out there!"
J. Wiley, reviewer




For more reviews and parenting advice, see Parent to Parent