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Talking to Your Children About Suicide – Why it’s Important

PSA:  It is PAST time to be having conversations about suicide with our children!  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, we are seeing higher levels of children (ages 5-17) visiting children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Do I have your attention yet?

Contrary to popular belief, talking about teen suicide will not push them towards it 

As parents, our knee jerk reactions can often be to do anything and everything to protect our children by eliminating the cause(s).  Although our intentions are pure, this is not the best strategy when it comes to suicide risk because pinpointing the risk factors have proven really hard to do.  Stress (especially associated with school), the ever-evolving world of social media and even puberty have all been called out as possible contributors to increased suicidal thoughts/attempts.

So what do we do?  We give our kids the tools they need to openly talk about, confront and be equipped with a plan to address suicide, whether it is something their friends are dealing with or something they personally are dealing with.

Acknowledge that suicide is a risk

The most effective way of accomplishing this is by starting and maintaining conversations about it.  Talking about it, destigmatizes it and can reduce fear and shame in your child about talking about it!

But how do we go about opening up a conversation on such a hard subject?  Easy!  By following these 6 steps:

5 (easy) steps to having a talk about suicide

  1. Timing is key! Pick a time where you have the BEST chance of getting and maintaining your child’s attention.

  2. Plan and rehearse ahead of time EXACTLY what you want to say (A good way to open the topic is by referring to a point of reference, “I was reading an article about suicide awareness…”)

  3. Be honest: If the topic is hard, or awkward, for you to talk about, admit it.  This is a healthy way of modeling taking responsibility for one’s feelings and gives an example to your kids of how to do it.

  4. Ask directly for your childs response (What do you think? Is this something you and your friends have talked about before?)

  5. LISTEN and maintain a balanced reaction: overreacting or underreacting could push your child away from talking about suicide with you in the future.  Remember, our children do care about how we are affected and will often times chose to withhold information in order to avoid an emotion reactions.

Here’s the reality:  suicide is the number 3 killer of adolescents in the world today.  The likelihood that your child has heard about, talked about or personally experienced suicidal ideations is extremely high.  Now is your chance!  Be a part of a culture that is de-stigmatizing the stigma around suicide.

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