Positive tools for thriving families.

We express our deepest sympathies to the family who lost their son recently at Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, CA. The community is grieving with the family, and parents, clinicians, and educators are working hard to map the steps to teen suicide awareness and prevention.

In 2014, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that suicide was the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-24 years. Suicide continues to be a significant cause of concern for parents and schools. The recent series, 13 Reasons Why, has also raised alarm amongst clinicians, teachers, and parents. The San Diego Union Tribune interviewed Dr. Maker on the recent shooting/suicide at Torrey Pines High School, and the pros and cons of the series 13 Reasons Why.

Given the high rate of teen suicide, it is imperative that parents and schools focus on prevention and early assessment if we are to make a change. Here are some suggestions of what adults can do to identify early warning signs:

  • Check in frequently with your teenage about their socio-emotional functioning – not just their grades, tests, and school performance.
  • Ask your teen how much fun they had in school that day or week.
  • Although teenagers are private, ask them how their friendships are going: are they having lunch with others, playing sports with friends, being invited to parties, etc.
  • Ask your teen, how he/she is feeling about school, friends, grades, the future, and the family.
  • Teachers can check in more frequently with the quiet teen, the isolated teen, the teen who is struggling with grades and friendships, and the new kid in the classroom.
  • Parents, teachers, and counselors should collaborate frequently when they may have concerns about a teenager. Early discussions, feedback, and interventions at home and at school could have a huge impact on the child.
  • If you have concerns, take your teenager in to see a professional for an objective and expert assessment. Prevention and early detection is key to helping your child.
  • Schools consistently do standardized academic testing for all students every year. It would be an excellent and cost-effective intervention to do annual or bi-annual socio-emotional wellness checks with standardized mental health screening questionnaires with all students in schools.

Teen suicide is a complicated and painful issue. As a community, we will continue to work together to reach out to teenagers, with a focus on prevention and early intervention. It is key to successfully prevent further tragedies amongst this very vulnerable population.


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  • Exceptional, impressive, thoroughly 'kid friendly' from beginning to end, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" should be a part of every community library Parenting Studies collections. For families with young children who are having to deal with divorce, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive aid.

    Editor in Chief - Midwest Book Review

  • Those of us parenting, working with, or caring for children experiencing divorce will welcome Family Changes as a unique, positive, and creative resource for helping children understand and cope with this complicated transition. The comprehensive note to adults effectively explains how children work through painful questions and feelings. The touching story—with the endearing Zoey and her attempt to understand a very grown up topic—ends with extremely helpful follow up questions that will be highly valued by parents, child advocates, therapists, and others who wish to better serve children during this difficult time. I highly recommend this book to parents and professionals.

    Sacha Coupet, Ph.D., J.D. Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Family Law, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

  • Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children is an outstanding book that is gentle, positive, and validating for both children and adults. With an excellent and informative parent guide about the value of talking to children about their feelings, a highly sensitive and engaging story with exquisite illustrations, and an effective list of questions that children typically ask, this book is essential reading for divorcing families, and for therapists and advocates working with children of divorce.

    Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan

  • Family Changes is an inspiring and exceptional book on divorce. It explains divorce in a developmentally appropriate and comforting language that validates children's complex feelings about divorce. Dr. Maker's expertise and years of experience working with children who are coping with the grief and confusion that often accompany divorce shine through in every page. I highly recommend this book to divorcing parents, schools, libraries, and professionals working with children of divorce.

    Martha Crowe, M.A. Child Development, Institute for Public Health, San Diego State University, CA

  • Dr. Maker has brought us this excellent child-centric educational book about how to navigate the changes of a family undergoing divorce. Dr. Maker takes us through this experience from the child's point of view and shares the gift of positive transformation that can occur during this life-changing time. The illustrations are sublime and the topic is handled so gently and ingeniously. Of course, it is written by a child psychologist with the gift of creativity. It's a book that every child therapist, library, school, and families going through a divorce should have on their shelves.

    Krista Royabal, M.D., Psychiatrist, Executive Medical Director, True Life Center for Wellbeing, CA

  • Based on the typical emotional turbulence a child feels from separation or divorce, Family Changes receives high recommendation as the first title that adults should turn to in the effort to explain, explore, and support a child's feelings in the matter, concluding with a list of 'process questions' which adults can use to further enhance the story line's overall approach.

    CA Bookwatch/Donovan’s Literary Services/Recommended Reading

  • The story touches on several key issues that children worry about - will their parents still love them, will they have two homes now, did they somehow cause the divorce, etc. The book also opens with a straightforward Note to Adults and ends with a list of questions that adults can discuss with children. Often books that do a good job of explaining divorce and separation are so focused on the child's point-of-view, that they don't offer any advice for the parents, caregivers, and teachers that are trying to help the child makes sense of it all. Family Changes avoids that problem and gives good guidelines for adults. I would recommend this book to parents and other family members, educators, and counselors.

    NetGalley Reviews/The Fairview Review - Librarian

  • This story is filled with little moments that reflect the nature of children perfectly. If you need to explain what it means to be divorced or separated to your child then this is one of the best ways to do that. The book is filled with relatable emotions and questions that a lot of children will have if their family is going through a separation. Dr. Maker’s years of experience are evident in the story as she masterfully addresses many common concerns for children experiencing a divorce in their family.

    The Littlest Bookshelf