One of the most frighting things that a parent can face is a child that is showing signs of suicide. Mental health concerns are on the rise, specifically for children ages 13-18. The pandemic and forced social withdrawal have negatively impacted children across the world, so it is especially important to keep a close eye on how your child is behaving so that you are able to notice warning signs.(1)
In this article, we will explore how to respond if your child is having suicidal thoughts, and common warning signs to look out for.
Seek Professional Care
Just because you are their parent doesn’t mean you have the tools and training needed to handle a complex situation such as suicide. You know your child best. Be on the lookout for things such as chronic pain or health concerns, withdrawal from typical social activities, aggression and sudden mood changes, loss of appetite, or eating too much, amongst other things.
No one is expecting you to know how to perfectly navigate this challenge, so try to alleviate the pressure off of your shoulders by seeking support from a professional. Knowing that your child is on the radar of someone who is an expert in the field of mental health will allow you to have the capacity to be there to support your child at home.(2)
Document, Document, Document
Documentation is key to understanding changes in your child’s behavior. This will also allow your child’s physiatrist to have the context needed to support them and create a tactical action plan. Living with your child, it can be hard to notice even subtle changes day to day. Any time that you do notice changes, respond by writing down the day, time, and behavior that you noticed in your child. You can even speak with your child’s therapist to understand how to respond to these situations head-on as they happen.(3)
Allow Your Child Space to Speak
If your child is having suicidal thoughts, it is important to not over-communicate your feelings, so as to allow them the space to speak their mind. If your child is brave enough to come to you and share how they are feeling, either at home or in a professional setting, try to sit back and listen.
Allow them to fully tell you their story before jumping in. Avoid giving advice — that’s for a professional. Instead, thank your child for coming to you and being so transparent about how they are feeling. If you create a safe and loving space for them to share their thoughts, they’ll be more likely to come to you again in the future. This might encourage them to come to you before they act on an impulsive thought, maybe even saving your child’s life one day.
Never Raise Your Voice
When speaking to your child about topics such as mental health, how they have been feeling overall, or addressing suicide concerns head-on, it is important to watch your tone of voice, along with what it is that you are saying. Never raise your voice at your child when speaking on these topics. Instead, you want to approach each conversation surrounding mental health with a cool, calm tone.
We hope this article gave you some ideas as to how best to respond to your child if they are having suicidal thoughts. Remember, mental health should be taken extremely seriously. Don’t wait. Contact NeuroBehavioral Associates today to explore treatment options for your child, and support offerings for you as a parent.
- Data and Statistics on Childrens’ Mental Health – Center for Disease Control & Prevention
- Make space, listen, offer hope: How to help a child at risk of suicide – NPR
- Observation and Assessment in Early Childhood Education – Gina Peterson and Emily Elam