Your Child Said They Wanted To Kill Themselves

I hear this a lot when I first meet with parents and it makes my heart sink each time. As a parent, I am sure you have heard some bizarre things come out of your kids mouth in the middle of a meltdown. Plus, let’s face it, when your kid gets to that level of melt-downing, you are probably not functioning at your best yourself either. It’s those pesky mirror neurons that are making you escalate and blood pressure rise! However, any comment about suicide is serious and it’s important not to ignore something like this.

However, EVEN IF you don’t think you’re kid would ever attempt suicide (maybe they don’t even know what suicide is!), the fact they said they want to kill themself is a big signal to you that something is not right.

It’s always important to take an statement of suicide seriously. Typically, what I see in counseling with the kids is that they needed something that will grab someone’s attention. It’s sort of like they are waving their arms in the air saying “Someone pay attention! I need help!”

That’s okay. In counseling, we can work on ways to tell people they are hurting without making a suicide outcry.

So, here’s the plan:

  1. Take it seriously.It NEVER hurts to follow up on this. It’s not worth the possibility of never seeing your child again. I know this for a fact: When There’s a Will, There’s a Way.
  2. Go to a nearby emergency room.A hospital can evaluate your child to see if they will be able to keep themselves safe. Sometimes, a hospital is the best place for your child. The staff at the hospital are trained to assess if your child is danger to themselves or others. If they think your child needs to be admitted, GREAT! You’re in the right place. People will be able to help and your child can find some relief from the pain. If the hospital says they are safe to come home, GREAT! You can rest easy knowing that did what you needed to do and can focus on next steps.
  3. Find a counselor.The hospital may be able to refer someone to you. It is absolutely critical that you get your kid in counseling after they make a suicide outcry. Even if they were just having a tantrum, they still need to get into counseling. Normal tantrums do not involve suicidal statements.
  4. Talk to people at schoolTeachers, school counselors, principals. Was there any bullying going on that you didn’t know about? Maybe grades have been dropping slowing or there’s too much pressure happening on a certain subject. Maybe your child’s best friend just stopped being their friend? Gather info.
  5. Check their social media.Cyber Bullying is REAL SCARY now. Check to see if anything stands out. Snapchat seems harmless with its sweet puppy dog filters, but it’s actually one of places I see the worst bullying since content disappears immediately.
  6.  Check in with your relationship with your kid.Have you gotten to spend time with them lately? When’s the last time that you actually had a conversation with them, outside of schedules or chores or grades? Relationships can always be improved. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, the smallest moments of attention matter. Try going for a walk or taking them to grocery store with them. One on one time is invaluable.
  7. Find support for yourself.It’s normal to feel hurt or guilty or lost when your child makes a suicidal outcry. You need to talk about it with friends, family or your own counselor and not with your kid. You want your kids to tell you when they are feeling so sad they want to hurt themselves. However, some kids feel pressure to keep their feelings a secret when they are worried about hurting their parents. That is not their responsibility, so don’t put that on them.
  8. Promote communication in your home.Talk with your kid. Know what is going on in their life. Let them know they can trust you and you can help.

Even if you feel they are just saying it for “attention”, it’s important to take it seriously. Something’s going on with your kid. Things are so bad they feel like they have to say something extreme so they will be heard. So let them be heard and find the right support.

Until next time! xoxo Kristen]

What To Do When… They’re An Angel At School but A Terror At Home

This topic is often brings the most frustration out in a parent.  You know that your child can behave because he’s a perfect angel at school. You know it’s in there somewhere…that sweet, well-behaved child that follows rules without attitude or does his chores without being asked. The one that does all his homework because he enjoys it and brings your breakfast in bed every morning….okay okay

“So where is this angel that the teachers keep telling me about?”

Let me get really “counselor-y” on you. It’s a good sign that your kid is doing this at home. It means he feels comfortable with you.

Ugh. I just felt all the parents roll their eyes.

Hear me out- Has something ever gone terribly wrong at work but you grit your teeth while you smile through the frustration? Then you get home and you snap at your partner for something not remotely important. Yeah, we all have. You can’t go off on your boss and think you’ll still have a job. But you CAN take it out on someone else that is safer that won’t leave.

The same applies to kids. I’m not saying that it’s not frustrating. It’s awful! However, if your kid was terrified of you, they probably wouldn’t be doing this. ***We do not want kids to be afraid of their parents….before someone gets any ideas.

Now what to do about it.

  1. Keep yourself calm. Nothing will be accomplished if you start yelling and crying with your kid out of frustration.
  2. Find some empathy. Now…search…..deep down….find some scrap of love and understanding…There it is! *phew* I know that was hard. Sometimes it feels impossible to feel empathy when World War 3 has broken out in your house because you wouldn’t let them play on the tablet for ten hours in a row.
  3. Now, consider that your child has a life well beyond what you know or experience. He sees the world differently than you. Not just because he’s a kid, but because he’s a different person. Maybe something small happened at school that seriously hurt their feelings. Maybe he’s been feeling like he has no control in his life and he’s had enough! Try to realize that your child doesn’t have the same vocabulary or emotional intelligence to express what is going with him emotionally.
  4. Set firm boundaries. Since we’ve established that you do still love your child, it’s still not okay for them to treat you this way. So whatever rule or limit you have set, stick with you. NO bargining. NO letting it slide. Please remember you can be firm and loving at the same time.
  5. Revisit the issue when everyone is calm. It’s easy to just move on with life after everyone is calm, but it is critically important to talk about what happened with your kid. Talk about healthy ways to discussed what’s going on, but most importantly, listen to your kid. They might not (probably don’t) have a beautiful response to why they did what they did. But, when you open up that door for communication, they will learn that 1) it’s safe to come to you, even when I mess up 2) we don’t ignore issues in this family 3) if I am treated with respect, I will treat others with respect.
  6. Talk to a counselor. If this is happening regularly and you are starting to feel hopeless, you don’t have to settle for that! Counseling helps work with kids on emotional regulation, increasing expressing emotions in a healthy way, and repairing family connections.

Finally, give yourself and your kid some grace. No one is the perfect parent and not everything that comes out of your mouth is the picture of calmness and wisdom. Know that you can always work on, repair and improve your relationship with your kid.

Until next time—  xoxo Kristen