Suicide is a heavy topic and one that we dads often find excuses to avoid. It doesn't seem to have the same urgency as other topics and seems to have a distance from our kids that seems safe enough to not need our attention. However suicide has been an increasingly common occurrence in kids even in Middle Schools and Junior Highs. The time has never been more appropriate to talk about suicide with your kids. September is National Suicide Prevention month. Here are some ideas to talk to your kids about suicide.
Much like the topic of healthy sexuality and appropriate physical touch with our kids, suicide carries with it a certain taboo stigma. The best way to bring up the topic with your child is best left up to you as the parent but when we approach the topic without the stigma of awkwardness, we begin the conversation on the right foot. Some of the best opening questions for this topic might be the ones that are blunt and open. Perhaps some of these examples might help. "Have you ever thought about suicide?", "Do you talk about suicide with your friends?", "Do you know anyone from school that has committed suicide?". I realize that these questions are closed-end questions. They can simply be answered with a yes or no. Your child might not feel comfortable engaging in a discussion like this right away-especially if you've never brought it up before. Your willingness to bring it up and then mark the reaction of your child with a question like this gives you a chance to see how willing they are to talk about it. It's about opening the dialogue and removing the taboo nature of the conversation.
Follow up with a more open-ended question if appropriate. If your child answers the question and engages in a conversation with you, you have made significant progress. If you feel your child's answer warrants a more in depth conversation that you are not comfortable with, don't hesitate engaging a counselor or therapist. This is your kid's life your talking about and nothing to take lightly.
If the conversation stops with a simple yes or no and you feel like they aren't at risk, affirm your love for your child and assure them that the topic is ALWAYS on the table with you. Either way, you have done more than stay silent. You've given your child a window to talk through, a loving father on the other side to listen and provide help and the assurance that if they ever do have questions, you are comfortable having that conversation with them because you love them.
You are a critical component to your kids' coping with the pressures of growing up in the digital age. Don't abdicate this responsibility to someone else. You've got this!
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