My child is suicidal. What should I do to help?

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Let's be real there is virtually no more difficult situation that we will face as parents than having a child tell us that they are contemplating suicide.

So, what do we do if our child shares that they're thinking of killing themselves? Well, number one, as traumatic as that is for us as parents, I want to encourage you that if your child comes and shares that with you, you are in an ideal position to be able to help because your child is communicating with you, and is asking for help. This is incredibly important. So, four tips, four things I want to invite you to do if this is the case.

Number one-take it seriously. Any talk of self-harm or suicide, we want to believe, drop what we're doing, get down on our child's level and listened intently. Don't be afraid to use the word suicide and ask questions. Have you thought about killing yourself? Do you have a plan? Talking about it is not going to plant the idea in their mind. It is going to create a bridge of open communication.

Number two-stay centered. We want to stay centered in our response. If we go to either of the extremes we're going to get into some trouble. If we go to the extreme of minimizing and denying and say "oh you're just attention seeking" or "you just had a bad day, you'll get over it" our child won't feel safe to come and talk with us when they're really struggling. If we go to the extreme of becoming hysterical and dysregulated emotionally ourselves, our child isn't going to come and share, because they'll be too concerned about caretaking our feelings. So, we want to stay centered, we want to be connected and be calm and stay centered in our response.

Number three-connect with support. First of all for your child, engage your child in this process. Whether it is seeking out a therapist, calling a suicide hotline, getting in with a support group, considering a medication; really engage your child in the process of seeking support for them. But, also seek support for yourself. Hearing this from your child is a very traumatic experience as a parent. We as parents need to have our emotions taken care of well in order to show up well for our children's emotions. So we need to connect with a therapist or a safe friend or a loving spouse or partner. We don't want our children to feel responsible for our emotions, but we need support in these circumstances as well.

Finally-stay connected. Continue the conversation. Check-in on your child every day or so. How are you doing? Is there anything that I can do to support you today? I want you to know that I love you and I'm here for you. I will do anything I can to help with your pain.

Just the presence of one loving adult can be the difference between life or death for your child.

So, as a review for tips-number one take it seriously, number two stay centered, number three seek support, and number for stay connected.

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Dr. Kevin Skinner