Suicide prevention is not a last minute fix. Caring adults in a child’s life work on this over a period of time before a crisis hits closer to home.
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Children open up when they feel that the other person is listening to them
So practice your listening skills
Wait until your children finish talking.
Watch your body language and your facial expressions as you listen. If the content shocks you, stay calm and continue to listen.
Before you start giving advice or your opinions, find out what your children expect from this interaction. Are they looking for someone to listen? Are they looking for reassurance? Or do they want your help?
Express your honest opinions and feelings in response—only watch your words. Children respect your point of view if they feel you are honest with them. They can pick out when you utter a lie to tide over that situation.
Use your judgment—sometimes children may not realize the magnitude of the problem. They don’t have your years of experience. Having said that, don’t react to every problem with the same intensity. Else they will worry about your reactions and won’t share their concerns with you.
Share your feelings
You know you care but do they? Show them in your day to day actions and words. Don’t wait for a crisis.
Set aside time for each child-do something with each one separately. A friend talks about his weekly walks to his mom’s office for an ice cream treat. Each of his siblings had one evening set aside for the special treat. This is from more than three decades ago Build those special memories in your child.
Talk about conflicts, emotions, mental health and support services
Don’t glorify suicide. Honor, pride and being stubborn don’t have anything to do with it.
Be factual about the possible causes. Don’t make light of it either.
As a society, we are very melodramatic. TV shows and movie abound with absurd quotes on how suicide is the answer for all kinds of ‘evils.’ Discuss why these are irresponsible statements.
Discuss mental illnesses as treatable conditions
Discuss the different options available to get help: Whom do they call? Where can they find information?
Teach by example. Reach out to others who are vulnerable and your children will follow suit. Suicide prevention is all about connecting with those who are vulnerable.
If a friend or family member committed suicide, seek professional counseling services for the survivors—start with therapy; don’t jump to medication. Coming to terms with grief is a time-consuming process, and there are no shortcuts. This also prevents copy cat suicides.
Resist the temptation to do the guilt trip, “Think of the people who are left behind.” Keep the focus on the person’s emotional needs.
Make time to understand yourself
What would shock you the most about your children’s choices? Why? What values and ideas will you compromise on and what will you hold to be absolute? Why? Prioritize these in your mind. Self awareness enables you to be a better communicator in the event your child does something you disapprove of.
If your child has good conflict resolution skills he or she may chose an alternate way to resolve problems. Assess your conflict resolution skills. You can’t teach your child skills you don’t have. So make a conscious effort to improve your skills.