If you’re a parent of a teenager who has expressed suicidal thoughts, you might feel scared or overwhelmed. If your child has opened up to you or if you think they may be struggling, it is most helpful to be an active and attentive listener.
One way to demonstrate that you are inviting conversation is by using open-ended questions, such as:
- What are these emotions like for you?
- What brought these feelings on?
- What do you normally do when you feel like this?
- How can I help you right now?
- What is it like for you to talk about this?
It is imperative that your child feel accepted in their feelings. Using validating statements, like the following, may help your child feel heard.
- It sounds like you are going through a lot right now.
- I’m so glad we’re talking about this.
- It takes a lot of courage to talk about this – I’m here to listen.
- It’s okay to feel that way.
- This isn’t something you should have to go through alone.
Tips for Parents
- Encourage your child to identify trusted adults they can speak with if they’re ever in a crisis or just need to talk. Try not to take it personally if they won’t speak to you or don’t seem comfortable. Encourage them to turn to those other adults.
- Think about your own views of suicide. Young people pick up on everything. If you have a negative view of mental illness or help seeking, they may too.
- Model healthy coping skills and self care!
- Speak in the car. There’s nowhere to go and you don’t have to look at each other face-to face, which can take some pressure off.
- Watch videos or movies together to encourage conversation.
- Use stories in the media and news as a starting point for discussion.
Helpful Videos and Articles
- How to have a difficult or awkward conversation with your kid (VIDEO)
- How do you help a grieving friend? (VIDEO)
- Brené Brown on empathy (VIDEO)
- Being a good listener (VIDEO)
- Shattering the silence: Youth suicide prevention (VIDEO)
- The fight against teen suicide begins in the classroom (VIDEO)
- A Parents’ Guide to Suicide Prevention
- The Top Mental Health Challenges Facing Students
- Student Suicide & Depression Guidebook
- Words Can Work