How many of you have been wondering about your teen’s well-being given the losses we have had in our communities recently? How many of you are anxious and fearful that the same could happen to your child? This is a natural thing to be feeling; you are not alone.
If you have questions about how to help your teen with grieving and loss, here is a resource from the Center for Loss and another from the Center for Loss and Bereavement. If you are looking for specific language or tips on how to talk with your teen about their loss, consider this resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Make sure you validate your teen’s feelings and not dismiss them- this can be difficult to do especially when you feel sad yourself, but it demonstrates empathy.
Contrary to popular belief, talking about suicide with your teens and the reasons why people end their lives does not increase the likelihood that your teen will want to die by suicide. It can open the door for your teen to talk to you about their thoughts and obtain help. People with suicidal thoughts can suffer a range of emotions: sadness, despair, neglect, and anger. Some people who think of suicide may not display any signs. Some potential risk factors may include a break up, struggling with depression or stressful life events, perceived rejection and lack of affirming spaces (e.g. in the LGBTQ+ population), the presence of lethal means in the house, etc. Some possible warning signs for suicide:
- Talking about death and/or suicide in a casual way
- Saying they wish they hadn’t been born
- Asking about death or how to commit violent acts
- Talking about leaving or going away
- Saying they won’t need things soon
- Not wanting to be around people anymore
- Seeming sad and remote instead of happy and social
- Becoming more angry or edgy
- Losing interest in hobbies or events
- Having trouble focusing
- Showing changes in normal routine, such as sleeping, eating, or grooming
- Acting out in harmful ways, such as drinking, using drugs, or hurting themselves
- Getting in trouble with the law
If you would like more resources on how to talk with your teen about your concerns, an authentic and caring conversation is usually enough. Here is a document from Kidshealth. If you would like to talk with other parents and guardians or need more support, ParentsAnonymous has online parenting support groups as well as a Parent and Youth Helpline: 855-427-2736. An additional resource for teens is from the JED Foundation and their Mental Health Resource Center. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255 or text GO to 741741 to speak to a crisis counselor 24/7.
Final thought: please do not forget to take care of yourselves. Just like on airplanes, make sure you put on your face mask first before you put the mask on your child. Taking care of yourself IS taking care of your kids as your kids will need you as their homebase and touchpoint. Finally, if your teen is struggling with academics or feeling down or frustrated about school, don’t forget to connect with our Counselors, our Nurse, and our WellnessCenter.