Talking to Tweens About Suicide? I didn’t think I would have to do this until TWO of Miss Sarah’s school mates attempted it last year. One was a result of bullying, the other was depression from family issues. In the modern world many lives are, unfortunately, touched by suicide. As a parent you may want to hide the meaning of death from your tween but, in reality, this is not possible in this age of social media. If you are a parent and have come over the news of a much-publicized suicide then chances are that your child has also heard the news. There is no denying the fact that tweens will have their reactions and feelings. But since they have less experience, compared to adults, in processing distressing news they need to be helped by a responsible and informed parent.
You can start a conversation with your tween after a publicized suicide in the media. Having said that, a parent need not wait for any tragic news to start this all-important conversation. However, these sad events do provide an opportunity to create something meaningful from such a loss. In the process, we are also paying a tribute to the deceased.
Talking to tweens about suicide
There is a common misconception among parents that when you start having these conversations with your child, it helps to plant these suicidal thoughts in the. This compels many parents to skip this topic. It is very important to note that, until now, there is no concrete evidence to prove that such discussions can lead to suicidal thoughts in a tween.
On the contrary, checking in with your tween helps to create an appropriate plan of action. Your child also understands that you are easily accessible for discussions on these matters in the future.
All of us know that tweens nowadays tend to push away their parents whenever the latter tries to have a mundane conversation. There is nothing to get panicked about as this is a normal development process whereby the tween is trying to find healthy independence from her parents. It is very common to find tweens projecting a false veil of independence to protect themselves whenever they need maximum support from their parents. The parents, on the other hand, easily feel dejected thinking their tween son/daughter is looking for some extra space and wants to distance himself. This is the time when parents find it difficult to check in with their children.
Here are a few important tips on how to initiate a conversation with your tween on this very difficult and disturbing topic – Talking to Tweens About Suicide
Whenever there is a much-publicized suicide reporting in the media you can call your kid and ask him whether he/she is aware of that particular piece of news. Try to get a response from him regarding his views on the whole matter. Encourage your tween to share his reactions without any inhibitions.
Ask him his feelings on hearing the news and whether there was any discussion on this matter in the school. We must remember that tweens are often comfortable talking in displacement which means that they tend to express their feelings and reactions through imaginary figures in their daily lives.
You must make an effort to let your kids know that the most common reasons for suicides are depression and lack of a sense of belonging. Ask him whether he has ever felt the same at any point in time. This will enable him/her to open up more freely and have a frank conversation with you. Assure him that you are always there to speak if ever he/she feels the need to share something important with you. Always be present for your tween and show your willingness to listen with an open mind and heart.
How to respond if your tween says that he had thoughts of suicide
First and foremost, it is very important to understand that merely thinking about suicide is not particularly dangerous. Many people, at some of the time in their lives, have a feeling that the world would be a better place without them. Such thoughts are very common. But finding out whether these thoughts are deep-rooted is very important so that you can help your child at the right time.
If your tween says that he had thoughts about suicide then you need to probe further and need to know what factors are compelling their child to harbor these thoughts. The tween needs to be asked whether he/she is under stress or if there has been any personal loss of which you are unaware of.
It is very important to assess the risk by looking out for some warning signs or risk factors such as changes in behavior, substance abuse, alcohol and changes in weight. If you find any of these risk factors to be persistent then you should immediately take your tween for proper counseling so that he/she can get rid of all these negative thoughts in due course of time.