Suicide can be a difficult subject to discuss, and it can be harder if your child is actively struggling with self-harm or suicidal ideation. Knowing how you can help prevent your child from harming themselves is a terrifying thought to confront.
As a parent, it is hard to imagine that your child could be going through such pain. Although, your role as a parent is to protect your children and guide them to make it through these hard times. Still, you may not know exactly what to do. If your child needs help, you are going to want to prepare in the best way possible.
Identifying the Signs
Children and especially teenagers experience a rollercoaster of emotions daily. Therefore, it is common for teens to have mood swings. If they display consistent behavior that gradually becomes more evident over time, this could be cause for concern.
Still, you do not want to jump to any conclusions. Therefore you will want to understand the telltale signs of suicidal behavior. There are many signs to look out for if your child is having suicidal thoughts that can include:
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Using of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Participating in risky behavior
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
If your child is showing one or more of these signs, they may be at risk, and it is crucial to take action.
How Do I Start the Conversation?
Depending on the type of relationship you have with your child, having a conversation about their emotions can be difficult. When you decide to talk with your child, make sure you do it in a comfortable setting for them and you. You might choose a safe space in the house like the living room or kitchen. Or, maybe you can find a peaceful place outdoors to hold the conversation.
Whatever you decide, make sure the environment will not cause distractions such as being in public or around other family members. This will help to establish normalcy when talking about these difficult topics.
Avoid Being Accusatory
Before starting the conversation, make a list of things you want to focus on. You can even practice what you are going to say. The important thing here is to remember not to come off as accusatory. For example, you might want to blame their friends or the kinds of music and television they enjoy as being a bad influence. This will only push them further away. Therefore, you will want to move the conversation away from trying to figure out what's "wrong" with them and focus on how you can help.
How Do I Get Them to Talk About How They Feel?
Encouraging your child to open up about how they feel can be significantly challenging. Their apprehension could stem from the stigma surrounding suicide. With this, they might feel ashamed because they do not understand that the source of their thoughts comes from an underlying mental health issue.
One of the best things you can do is establish trust with your child. You can do this by letting them know that they can always come to you if they need help. Let them know that there is no judgment, and they should not feel guilty about any feelings they have; you will love them regardless.
Share Your Experiences
You can also open up about your own experiences. Sometimes talking about your struggles in life can make your child feel like they are not alone. Knowing that there is someone else who has had similar thoughts and feelings can be very comforting if they feel alone.
Nothing I Try Seems to Work?
When nothing you try seems to work, the thing you do not want to do is give up hope. Some professionals are trained to handle these types of situations. Understand that admitting your child needs professional help does not mean that you have failed as a parent. Getting your child the support they need means you take the responsible steps towards bettering their mental health.
A therapist or counselor can help moderate conversations with your child. Having a licensed professional present can direct the conversation toward being helpful rather than hurtful.
Professionals are also necessary for diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, even after having a successful conversation with your child, you will still need help from a professional.
If you or a loved one is struggling with self-harm or suicidal ideation, it can be hard to know what to do next. Further, establishing a relationship where your child feels comfortable opening up with you can seem like an impossible task. Understand that there are steps that you and your child can take to cultivate healthy communication, and NorthStar Transitions can help. Our group therapy programs provide a safe space for families to build trust in their relationships. With us, you and your child will learn to express emotions constructively. You will also learn how to work together to manage emotions associated with an underlying mental health disorder. Our primary focus will be on helping you and your child thrive. Don't wait any longer; if you and your child need help, get help today. To learn more about our programs, reach out to us today and call (303) 558-6400.