Adolescents, with their raging hormones and emotional ups and downs, have always been susceptible to self-destructive thoughts and feelings. Today’s entertainment and social media only exacerbates this natural tendency. Under the circumstances, parents have no choice except to adopt a proactive approach.
Suicide as a Reality in Our Society
Once you’ve come to terms with the disturbing truth that suicide is now a normal part of the cultural scene, you’ll be in a position to confront it. And it would be best if you got started right away. You can begin with these steps:
The first item of business is to educate yourself and your children. Take a look around and get a feel for the lay of the land. Ask your kids, “What’s going on at school?” Find out if they have friends who’ve been thinking or talking about suicide. Discuss the subject openly with all of your children, even those who don’t seem to be at risk. Do this as a matter of course, just as you would with sexuality and sex education. It’s never too soon to begin.
Create a home environment based around a family identity and shared values. Get involved in your children’s lives. Share meals together as frequently as possible. Be open, honest, and vulnerable. Have a weekly, biweekly, or monthly “date” or one-on-one time with each of your children. Help them feel comfortable about sharing their thoughts and impressions with you.
Adopt Realistic Goals
Realize what you can and can’t do. The world is a perilous place, and you can’t expect to protect your children against all dangers at all times. You can, however, help prepare them for the negative experiences they’re likely to face in life. You don’t have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent. So don’t let worries of embarrassment or failure prevent you from talking with your kids about suicide.
Model Stress Management
Model and teach healthy, positive strategies for dealing with disappointment, disillusion, depression, and stress—things like prayer, scriptural meditation, exercise, or cultivating a hobby. Talk with your kids about your own ups and downs and help them see that, no matter how bad things look, tomorrow is always another day. Remember our discussion on self-care?
Make a Plan
Establish a family crisis intervention plan. Make sure everyone knows the details before a real crisis arises. Think of it as a kind of fire drill for stress management. Find ways of communicating negative feelings to others and dealing with them before they get worse. Practice these steps together at least three to six times a year so that everyone in the family is comfortable with them.
We want you to hear this message loud and clear: Suicide is now “normal” in our society, so be proactive as a parent, and talk often with your kids.