The teen years can be difficult for any family to go through. The constant mood changes as well as the physical changes pose all sort of challenges for everyone to navigate and come out on the other side as a healthy, well adjusted adult. This can especially be difficult for families where one of the members is constantly struggling with suicide ideation. Parents can be at a loss when their child tells them that they don’t want to be alive. There can be all sorts of unanswered questions that come: Why my child? What did I do wrong as a parent? Is there something that I missed? Many emotions can circle in the mind of a parent when they hear their child tell them about their suicidal ideation. It is important, however, to remember what your role is as a parent in order to help support and protect your child. Here are some steps that could help provide support to your child who is struggling with suicidal ideation:
- Check your emotions when your child discloses suicidal ideation to you. Many teens and children who struggle with suicidal ideation tend to hide their thoughts and feelings from their parents due to the basic idea that no one will understand how they feel or they might get into trouble. While you as a parent may not understand where your child is coming from, it is important to keep in mind that getting angry and upset with them about this is not going to help. If fact, getting upset might prompt them to do more irrational things because they have been triggered.
- Take every suicidal threat seriously. If your child discloses to you that they have been thinking about suicide, they have a plan, and they have an intention of carrying out that plan, then they must be taken to a medical facility immediately. If your child discloses to you that they have been self harming, but do not intend to kill themselves, it is important anything that they can use to hurt themselves is removed from the environment completely.
- Take notice of different changes of behavior. Your knowledge as a parent is essential when it comes to keeping your children safe. If your child has lost interest in things that they would usually enjoy, they are isolating themselves, giving away things that are precious to them, self harming, or finding objects around the house that they could use to kill themselves, it is time to intervene. If your child has a history of depression, then it is even more important that you keep an eye on their behaviors.
- Make the environment completely safe. If your child discloses a suicide plan, it is important that you remove any item that is dangerous from the home. This could mean removing knifes, cables, or pills that could prove lethal. If your child has been released from a mental health hospital and has been given a safety plan, it is important that you follow through with the plan completely.
- Get your child involved in therapy services if they have disclosed suicidal ideation to you. This is especially important for teens that have a mental health disorder such as depression. Therapy helps a teenager or child learn how to cope with difficult circumstances as well as understand how to combat suicidal ideation.
- Surround your child with a healthy support system. Many teens and children who struggle with suicidal ideation, often express that they feel like there is no one out there who understands what is going on. Some teenagers have often been the victim of vicious bullying from their peers, which exacerbates suicidal ideation. An important piece to recovery from suicidal ideation is to make sure that your teenager or child has an outlet where they can feel loved and accepted by their peers. This can be in the form of mental health support groups, sports teams, or even church groups.
- Provide a safe environment for your child to be open and honest about their feelings. Many times teenagers and children will hide their feelings due to different reactions from parents and teachers. As parents, it is essential that you allow your children to feel what they feel and encourage them to share it with you. If your child shares anything with you, it is important to treat it with a great amount of care and compassion. Keep in mind that if your child is disclosing what they are feeling or thinking, they are placing a very deep and personal matter in your hands. Thanking them for telling you what is on their minds, and accepting what they give you with kindness and compassion will send a very loud and loving message of support.
As parents, helping your child cope with suicidal ideation can be a very frightening task. The most important message that you can ever send your child who is struggling is that they are loved and wanted by you and by several people around them. Being willing to listen to your child’s pain as well as providing them with outlets, can help them recover and grow stronger in their own way.