A Parent's Response to Teen Suicide
As a parent of two teenage children, my heart sinks when I hear about the events that have occurred at Urbandale Middle School in the past several days. What I want to do is snuggle on the couch, with my children on either side of me, and never let them out of my sight again. Never let them encounter pain. Never talk about doubt, fear, anger, hatred, feeling alone. As wonderful as I envision that to be, in all reality, it’s not reality. My children have encountered pain, they have struggled with doubt, anger, hatred, feeling alone, and they will again in the future.
Suicide is such a difficult topic to address with our children. It is difficult to know the right response.
Where does that leave me as their parent? Right where I need to be. As scary at it may be, it’s my job to call out the elephant in the room and open that dialogue with my children. Ask them what they think about these two events, what emotions they are experiencing. I will plan to share with them a time when I have experienced similar thoughts and emotions. I will tell them they don’t have to guard their language, emotions or beliefs. I will encourage them to share their doubts and fears. I will not judge them in our dialogue, and try very hard to resist my natural urge to solve all their problems. I will resolve to be honest with my own emotions, and then take a deep breath, and listen.
Contributed by Diana Bonus MS, LMHCP