Teenage suicide is a difficult topic to navigate, both for parents and children. Parents often feel like they are walking on eggshells, not wanting to say the wrong thing and make things worse.
But parents need to be informed about how to talk about suicide and death with their children and how to get help for them if needed.
Discussing Teenage Suicide With Your Kids
It’s not easy to talk about suicide, but it’s something that we need to do. As parents, it’s important for us to be able to have open and honest conversations with our children about it.
It can be difficult for kids to understand what’s happening when someone takes their own life, and it’s our job as parents to provide them with information and resources to help them cope.
Below are some tips on how to talk to kids about teen suicide:
1. Be Open and Honest With Your Child
A lot of parents often use metaphors when talking to their kids about complex topics like suicide. While this can be helpful in some cases, it’s important to be open and honest with your child about what suicide is.
Explain that suicide is when someone makes the decision to end their life. Talking about suicide is never easy. However, it must be done and should not be taken lightly.
2. Reassure Your Kids That They Can Come To You With Any Questions
Ask your child if they have any questions about suicide and answer them honestly. Reassuring your child that they can come to you with any questions helps them understand that they can always talk to you about anything without judgment.
If your child does come to you with questions about suicide, be sure to answer them in an age-appropriate way. However, do not avoid the topic or act like it’s not a big deal. This will only make your child feel like they can’t come to you with their questions and concerns.
It’s also important to let your child know they are not alone. If they are feeling suicidal, make sure to assure them that there is help available. Remind them that you are always there for them and that they can come to you with anything.
If your child is reluctant to talk to you about their suicidal thoughts, it’s essential to seek professional help—suicide is something that you should not try to handle on your own.
You should also encourage your child to ask questions. This will help them to understand what suicide is and how it can be prevented.
Some questions that you can encourage your child to ask include:
- What are some warning signs that someone is considering suicide?
- How can we help someone who is feeling suicidal?
- Why do people feel like they need to attempt suicide?
- What can we do to prevent teenage suicide?
3. Help Them To Understand That Suicide is Not the Answer
Kids need to understand that suicide is never the answer. No matter how bad things might seem, it’s important to remember that there are always other options, and help is available.
There are many resources available to help people who are expressing suicidal behavior. These include hotlines like the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which can be reached by dialing 988.
There are also many counseling and therapy options available. If your child is feeling suicidal, make sure to get them the help they need.
4. Check In With Them
Even if your child doesn’t come to you with questions about suicide, it’s important to check in with them occasionally. This will let them know that you are there for them and that you care about their well-being.
You can ask your child how they are doing, how school is going, and if they have any concerns. If you notice any changes in your child’s behavior, make sure to ask them about it.
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Warning Signs of Being Suicidal
Sometimes, the death of family members could render a child feel isolated, confused, and hopeless. If these feelings persist and they exhibit warning signs of teen suicide, getting help immediately is important.
Some common warning signs include:
1. Expressing Feelings of Hopelessness or Being a Burden to Others
One of the most common warning signs of suicide is a child expressing feelings of hopelessness or being a burden to others. If your child frequently talks about how there’s no point in living or wishing they were dead, it’s important to take these statements seriously.
Other signs could include feeling trapped, saying things like “it would be better if I weren’t here” or “I wish I could disappear.”
If your child is exhibiting any of these, it’s important to talk to them about how they’re feeling. It’s also important to seek professional help right away.
2. Talking About Wanting To Die or Hurt Oneself
Another common warning sign of suicide is a child talking about wanting to die or hurt themselves. This could include expressing a desire to kill themselves, discussing how they would do it, or making a specific plan.
Other warning signs could include talking about how they wish they were dead, collecting pills or other items that could be used to hurt themselves, or hiding sharp objects.
If your child is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s essential to talk to them about how they’re feeling. It’s also important to seek professional help right away.
3. Giving Away Belongings
Sometimes, a child considering suicide will start giving away their belongings. This could be a sign that they don’t expect to live much longer and want to ensure their loved ones are cared for.
4. Withdrawing From Friends and Family
Another common sign that a child is considering suicide is withdrawing from friends and family. If your child suddenly stops hanging out with their friends or participating in activities they used to enjoy, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
Other warning signs could include spending more time alone, sleeping more than usual, or isolating themselves from loved ones.
What Causes Teens To Attempt Suicide?
Many different things can push suicidal behavior.
Common risk factors include:
- Relationship problems
- Family conflict
- Loss of a loved one, family members
- Stressful life event
- Substance abuse
- Mental health disorders
- Domestic violence
- Sexual abuse or violence
- Family history of suicide attempts
Parents must always be attentive to any changes in their kids’ behavior. These could be warning signs that they’re struggling and may consider attempting suicide.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Suicidal?
If you suspect your child has suicidal behaviors, taking immediate action is the best option to ensure your child’s safety.
Have an open and honest conversation with your kids. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, here are some tips:
- Pick a time when you’re both relaxed.
- Ask them simple questions like, “How are you feeling?” or “How was your day?” to express concern.
- Make them feel you’re sincere by being attentive and listening without interrupting them.
- Don’t pressure them to talk.
- Avoid blaming or lecturing them.
If your child is hesitant to talk, you can suggest they speak with another trusted adult who they can feel comfortable with.
Make Sure Your Child Is Away From Danger
It’s crucial not to leave your teen alone, especially for a long time. Make sure they don’t have immediate access to any objects that they can use to harm themselves. This includes guns, knives, other sharp objects or weapons, and prescription medications.
Seek Help from a Mental Health Professional
If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, getting help from a professional is important. You can talk to your child’s doctor or a mental health therapist.
It’s also important to be alert and have emergency services and hotlines at bay.
What Not Do When Kids Express Suicidal Behavior
- Don’t act like it’s not happening.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Don’t tell them to just snap out of it.
It can be very hard to know how to talk to about teenage suicide with your kids, but it’s important to remember that they need your support through this tough time.
Suicide is a difficult topic, but it’s one that we need to discuss with kids, especially if they are showing signs of suicidal ideation or if a loved one has died by suicide. By having these conversations, we can help prevent teenage suicide and save lives.
The most important thing is to be open and honest with your child and to let them know they can always come to you with anything they’re feeling.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to those who need them.
All Things Childcare strives to provide research-based information. While the contents of this article have been fact-checked, we encourage our readers to seek actual medical advice from health professionals.