Last month our community experienced the tragic loss of a young student who took his own life. During the same time frame, the Netflix Series, “13 Reasons Why” came out, leading to a national conversation about a truly difficult topic… teen suicide.
As therapists treating children, teens, adults and seniors during difficult life experiences, we have a heightened awareness of the challenges faced by the families of our clients and patients. When it comes to raising teens, we understand the fear and anxiety that parents feel when news like this comes out and the questions they ask themselves.
In this month’s newsletter, we’d like to offer a few emotional wellness tips for parents and the families of teens. We ask you to please consider sharing this insight with your families and friends – as it could make a real difference in a teenager’s life.
Not always, but often, there are behaviors that reveal a teenager’s state of mind. Behaviors that can be signs of real distress include:
Isolation. When a teen that is normally social spends an increasing amount of time alone.
History of self-harm. Any history of self-harm is a good reason to watch your teen closely and utilize the suggestions to follow.
Recent or increasing moments of angry outbursts, aggression, and conflict.
Gifting of belongings. Teens who are contemplating suicide may choose to give away things that have previously been important to them.
Any history of previous suicide plans. Though it can be hard to know when a threat is real or an attempt to manipulate, teens who share their suicide plans are struggling in some way. Whether real or not, providing them access to professional help is worth the time and cost.
Watching for the above-listed behaviors is the first step and listening naturally happens when parents are paying attention. When we recommend that parents listen (in this second step) we are encouraging them to listen to their gut.
As parents of little children, we depend on our gut when our kids can’t tell us what they need. Using this same ability as our children progress into adolescence is just as important. While they may be able to express themselves more readily, they may struggle to identify and understand what they need emotionally. When parents and/or teens don’t have much time together this challenge becomes even more significant. An in-person sit-down conversation in a relaxed place, is always far more effective than a phone call, text, or quick standing exchange.
As our children become young adults, it is natural for us to make more assumptions about their needs and feelings or even feel uncomfortable asking personal questions.
Asking questions gently, listening without sharing an opinion (especially initially) and refraining from judgment, helps create a much more effective space for sharing. Though parents usually know better than a teen about how to make healthy choices, giving teens the space to talk safely can open important doors into learning how they are really doing.
Even parents who feel they have well-adjusted emotionally healthy children can benefit from learning where to go for help and sharing what they learn with their teens.
To follow are a few links to valuable resources that we encourage you to explore.
As an Emotional Wellness Center, we encourage you and those you care about to reach out to us as well. We have a team of licensed trained therapists who care deeply about the individuals we serve.
Ushering our children into adulthood is challenging and sometimes filled with questions and anxiety but parents don’t have to do it alone. Our Emotional Wellness Center is among many resources available to parents and their valued teenagers.