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Child Depression: What Should Parents Do?

Experts say don't stop medication, but get child and family into talk therapy.
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Child Neglect: A Cause for Concern continued...

Too many kids get medication instead of talk therapy, Weiss explains. "The symptoms I'm seeing in depressed children are the result of pretty profound neglect. Putting the child on medication just confounds the situation. You're telling the kid something is wrong with you -- as opposed to something is wrong with your family. You're not really listening to what's going on in the kid's life."

Too many children -- many from affluent homes -- suffer from neglect that is the root of their depression, he says. "I work with a lot of teenagers. The No. 1 issue is the staggering neglect. They live in a nice house, get a car when they're 16, have this, have that. But in terms of being raised by parents, it's astounding how little parental contact there is."

Try a Therapist First

If you think a child is depressed, take them to a therapist -- not to a pediatrician, advises Weiss. "If after two or three months of psychotherapy, you see it's not helping, then -- and only then -- should you try medication."

Giving kids everything they want contributes to children's depression, he adds. "Kids should not be recipients of devotion without doing anything in return. If you give them stuff they didn't ask for, then you ratchet up huge expectations in this world."

Also, doing everything for a child is never a good idea, Weiss tells WebMD. "If they're not active, contributing members in the family, they can get depressed. If a kid doesn't have jobs at home -- if they're too busy with karate and everything else -- it's just not healthy."

If you want a close bond with your child -- and protect them from depression -- spend a good bit of time with them, Weiss advises. "This talk of 'quality time' is a way of saying, 'I don't have time for my kids.' Kids don't talk much at all, and if they do it's because you've spent an afternoon at the mall with them, and you've managed to get a few words from them during that time. If you schedule quality time, you won't get them talking."

Another bit of advice: If you're concerned about your child, don't ask, "Are you depressed?" Weiss tells WebMD. "Talk in English: Are you unhappy? Sad? Having a hard time? Are you having any fun?"

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Reviewed on September 15, 2004
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