Talking with Your Child About Suicide
- Without judgment, comment on the verbal and/or non-verbal behavior that you are concerned about: “I’ve noticed that you have been looking sad for several days.”
- Invite your child to talk about his/her feelings: “Tell me what’s going on.”
- Put yourself in your child’s place; respect his/her feelings.
- Allow your child to talk more than you do. Avoid interruptions or distractions.
- Avoid unkind words that ridicule, shame or label your child: “You get everything you want; what do you have to be depressed about.”
- Ask your child one question at a time and then wait for the answer; be comfortable with silence.
- Avoid diagnosing and/or giving advice; express concern and offer reassurance. “I’m on your side….we’ll get through this together.”
- Share a book, video or game about feelings to help open up the dialogue. Create a color wheel and assign colors to feelings, use a drawing of a thermometer to gauge their feelings, or use a chart with expressions of feelings to check in with them.
- Help your child see that there are different ways of resolving his/her feelings. Discuss the options. “You could go and talk with your teacher about the ‘D’ grade that you got on your last exam. Let’s practice how you would talk with your teacher.” or “We could get you a tutor.” or “I could help you study for the next exam.”
- Inform your older child about helpful resources that are available in the community, I.e. the school nurse or counselor, a teacher, the family doctor or a church group leader. Communicate with these adults and create a support network by sharing your concerns.
- Develop a “plan of action.” What does your child agree to do? What are you committed to doing?” When will the two of you talk again? Do you need to seek professional help?
- Communicate love and acceptance of your child’s feelings and acknowledge the courage that it takes to talk about “hard things”. Acknowledge your willingness to talk again.
Here are two more links to check out: