**Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. Please read with caution.**
The Importance of Checking In
Cameron wanted to watch “13 Reasons Why” and while I’ve never watched it, I didn’t want to hold him back. I sat him down for a chat before I would allow him to watch. We discussed what it was about, how Hannah’s death impacted her friends and if Cameron thought it would upset him.
He said that he would be okay watching it, his friends had told him about it. He asked me if I wanted to watch it, and I told him thanks but no thanks. (My former therapist advised me to not watch it.) He watched it and was a bit sad but otherwise okay.
After Cameron finished the series, we talked again, only this time, we talked about suicide itself. I just wanted to see where he was. He said no, he had never thought about it or never been so depressed/angry that he thought about it. I was relieved.
He knows that he can come to me about anything, but I also know that many who consider suicide don’t always go to someone when considering it. I asked him if he knew anyone who might even be thinking about it or is hurting, and all I got was “Nope, I think everyone is good, Mom.”
I was relieved.
Thanks to my work with kids around Cameron’s age, I know this conversation doesn’t happen in every home and/or doesn’t go so well. I’ve seen teens angry as hell that their attempts were not successful.
There isn’t really a timeline on how often to check in, but I would go for it every once in a while. Just see what your child is thinking.
5 Things to Keep In Mind
- Listen, even when your teen is being quiet. Teens do have quiet moments. It happens. The time to worry is when they are being more quiet than usual. Are they stressed out? Did they just have a bad breakup? Chronic medical issues and/or severe chronic pain? Is there a family history of suicide? A history of substance use? Encourage your teen to not isolate but don’t push too far. Some kids like being alone.
- Lower demands of your teen. Teens are very busy these days. Life is full of stress from school, friends, even sports and jobs. All of this can snowball and when you feel you aren’t “good enough” it can be crushing. Try to help your teen when you can and break things down, even if that means quitting a sport or other activities. There is a reason I keep my kids underscheduled. I don’t want extremely stressed out kids. This may change once high school starts, but for right now, they aren’t bogged down with constant activities.
- Teens can be embarrassed to ask for help, just like adults. They might not want to ask for help because they don’t want to burden their parents, who are busy with work and other things. They don’t feel worthy of the help they need. We need to remind them that they are worthy.
- Some teens are resistant to help but may warm up later. Don’t expect immediate results. They may try to skip sessions, not speak, etc, but will eventually come around. Stick to the therapy and the results will be worth it.
- If your child mentions wanting to complete suicide or wanting to die, please seek help immediately. Remove anything that they can hurt themselves with, including firearms, immediately and get them to an ER. This cannot be brushed off and can end tragically if it is.
Getting the Help Your Child Needs
Admitting that your child needs psychological help is not an easy thing. I’ve had to do it. Taking Julian to a psychiatrist was one of the hardest things I have ever done as a mother, but it was well worth it. It will be worth it for you, your child and your family.
Your child may need in or outpatient help, or a combination of both. If your child needs medication, that is not terrible. Please consider the pros and cons before starting medications. There is no shame in doing either and please remember, it is not a reflection on you as a parent. It took me years to learn that.
Encouraging Empathy and Compassion
If your child seems fine, this is great. The talk you have can change gears into how they can help a friend that isn’t okay. Again, the world we live in can be overwhelming for some teens. They may need a friend like your child who can listen, offer a hug and maybe even a laugh or two. Laughter can go a long way with teens when they are not doing so well.
Compassion and empathy can go far when your child has a friend who is struggling through their days and need someone to remind them that it is okay to not be perfect. Everyone has difficult times and needs someone to reach out to. Your child can be that person to someone. This can end up being a good lesson.
Depression can hit at any age, for any reason, at any time. Please remember this when you speak to your teen about this issue. Handle the discussion carefully and don’t judge them. You may lose their trust if you do so. Please see my Resources page for more information on depression and suicide resources.
Information for this post from these resources:
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