Some think that young people who give voice to ponderings about suicide are seeking attention and would never be the ones to carry out such a desperate act – but contemplating suicide could be part of the path to following through. On the other hand, if your adolescent verbalizes his musings to you, then you’ve been given the chance to intervene and change the direction of his thoughts.
If you sense that your child is in a place of emotional crisis there are things you can do to help him open up to you.
1. Come to Grips with Your Own Adolescence
If your own youth was particularly tough and you have never made peace with it, this could be a reason that talks about youth stresses aren’t happening. Think back over your own early years and become reconciled.
2. Listen Without Judging
It can be hard to hear just how much your adolescent is hurting, but they need you to hear it. And they need to feel that you are able to sit with them in it for a time before passing judgment. Listening is powerful. If your child feels you are not really hearing and trying to understand, they will feel further isolated and the crisis worsens.
3. Make a Plan Together
After you have really listened to your child, talk about options with him. Something as simple as increased exercise can help to dispel some feelings of depression, though it is hard for a depressed person to get up and get started. Another option could be reading a book on youth and depression together. Meeting with a counselor is also an important part of the plan. The key is developing a plan together.
If your adolescent is in crisis Family Guidance has trained counselors available. They understand how to listen and can help your child discover positive options for coping with the reality of adolescent stress.