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Let’s Talk- How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs, Suicide, and Their Strengths
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Talk to your child about suicide
When you suspect something serious might be wrong with your child, no matter how badly you might want to reach out, it can be hard to know where to begin. It is even harder when you are worried about suicide.
See how to start a conversation with your teen.
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Warning Signs of Suicide
To begin with – here are some warning signs to look out for:
1. Your child constantly feels irritable, sad, or angry.
2. Nothing seems fun anymore.
3. Your child feels worthless, guilty, or just “wrong” in some way.
4. Your child sleeps too much or not enough.
5. Anything and everything makes your child cry.
6. Your child has gained or lost weight without consciously trying to.
7. Your child just can’t concentrate; grades my be plummeting because of it.
8. Your child secludes and isolates himself/herself from family and friends (this is not typical teenage behavior).
9. Check social media – look for phrases like “life is not worth living anymore,” or other hopeless messages.
Your child may be considering suicide. Here’s what you can do.
1. Ask your child if he/she has ever thought about suicide. Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Start the conversation like this: “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem like yourself lately. I’m worried about you. Are you thinking about suicide?”
2. Continue talking to your child or loved one gently asking if he/she has ever thought about how they would complete suicide. You are gauging their intent.
3. Reach out for help.
– While you are talking to your child or a loved one you could suggest that call the Hope Line (1-800-567-4673) and together talk to a local mental health professional who is on call 24/7.
– Once you’re on the line with the Hope Line put the phone on speaker so you can talk together about your concern and let them talk to your child or loved one.
– If there is a serious concern the Hope Line staff will guide you to the Crisis Center or any local hospital emergency room. The Hope Line will dispatch our Kids Crisis Team to meet you and connect you with help.
Every parent needs to realize that your child needs you to talk to them because they are still vulnerable and in need of love, compassion and direction. Remember, try not to lecture or judge. Listen like a friend but respond like a parent.
The earlier you begin to talk to your child about the dangers of drugs the easier it will be to continue to reinforce this with them through their adolescent years and the more likely they will be to come to talk to you when there is a problem.
Ages 3 to 5
During the preschool years, children seek their parents’ approval so this is a great time to teach kids about good nutrition, proper hygiene, and developing a healthy lifestyle.
Talk about dangerous substances in his / her environment like bleach or cleansers or tobacco
Ages 5 to 8
As children enter school and spend more time around their peers, they become more influenced by the media and world around them.
See how to start a conversation with a child 5 to 8.
Let your child know how you feel about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Keep it factual and focused on the present
Ages 9 to 11
During the tween and preteen years, children may begin to assert their independence and question your authority. When it comes to the issue of drug use, this is one of the most important times in a child’s life.
Keep your conversations in the present tense because the “future” for your child is a long way off.
Tell him / her how using drugs and alcohol will spoil the fun of school and friends and practice with them what they will say when a friend offers them drugs.
See how to start a conversation with a child 9 to 11 years old
Always let them know they can come and talk to you no matter what. If you are worried your child is drinking alcohol or using drugs:
Show Concern and interest – “I am worried about you.” Or “Tell me about the pep rally yesterday.”
Show your love – Give your child a hug, “I love you.”
Be direct – “I’ve noticed you’re not showering.” “Your grades have dropped.” “I found beer cans in the car.”
Give lots of praise – Your child needs to hear the “good stuff” too.
See how to start a conversation with a teenager.
Talk to your child about Strengths
Strengths are the inner qualities that make us feel most alive and because of that, they are the places where we have the potential to make our most meaningful contributions to life. Strengths can be developed at a very early age and parents can help. Children who learn their strengths from loving parents or caregivers develop strong personal qualities that help them maintain emotional health and inoculate them from using substances.
1. Watch children at play and you will learn a great deal about what they prefer, how they socialize, and the unique ways they view themselves.
2. Keep a Strengths Journal.
Take note of the things your child does — anything that strikes you about his/her behavior. Here are a few of the kinds of questions that will guide you:
• What causes your child to express joy and happiness?
• What are the things that keep his attention the longest?
• Are there sounds or words he reacts to more than others?
• Is he generous? How does he show this?
• Does he show sympathy? Is he caring or funny? Give examples.
• What are the first things he says in the morning and the last things he says at night?
3. Resist the urge to evaluate and overstate expectations.
Sometimes we unintentionally burden children by evaluating everything they do. When your child shows you a picture she drew, instead of saying, “That looks great.” Try asking a question, “What do you like best about the drawing?” Or “What do you like about drawing?” And see what he / she says. That could start a wonderful conversation.
Children need to feel that they can try new things and that failing is OK. Unreasonably high expectations often pressure children to perform and conform within strictly prescribed guidelines that deters experimentation, exploration, and innovation. The more children are free to explore and try new things, the easier it will be to discover their real strengths.
4. Write a note and put it on the bathroom mirror, slip a note in their lunch or send a text with a word of encouragement.
Our time and effort will be richly rewarded as we focus our attention on enhancing our children’s strengths and learning how those strengths can be applied in different areas of their lives.
Can you name your child’s strengths? Have you told him / her about them lately?
Talk to your kids about their strengths.