Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among children
YOUNG CHILDREN AGED 10-14 AND OLDER AGED 15-24. THAT’S AROUND FOURTH GRADE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL THROUGH COLLEGE GRADUATION YEARS. HEARTBREAKING. AND BEFORE YOU SAY, “NOT WHERE I LIVE”, THE NUMBER OF DEATHS BY SUICIDE IN TEXAS AGE 15-19 IS HIGHER THAN THE U.S. NATIONAL AVERAGE. (SOURCE CDC WONDER)
Why in a time where more information on mental health is available, more medications, more information, more technological advances, more safety precautions and supposed more connection and inclusion, are our youth choosing to end their lives by suicide?
I don’t know. I’d like to think if we did know, the numbers would be declining instead of increasing. I do know that it starts with parents in the home.
Why did you choose to have children in the first place?
Parenting is hard and messy! But from the very second children are born, they are communicating by crying and connected by touch. Engage in healthy ways with your child, learn about their life from their perspective. Listen, don’t lecture. Don’t assume. Hug. Make eye contact. Be present. Prioritize your relationship with them.
Laying the foundation for trust and connectedness.
What do you remember about preschool through fourth grade? I loved and worshipped many of my teachers! I loved to play pretend and practice for adult life, I got nervous that I wouldn’t have anyone to play with or that I wouldn’t learn as fast as the others, and I thrived on genuine positive reinforcement and rewards. And I knew if you were phoning it in!
Communicate, support, build trust. Be the love that your child can model their self-love after. Tip: To do this well you also have to love yourself well.
The pull away from parents toward friends.
I’ve noticed a distinct pulling away of my teen, and with it my own grief for the relationship we used to have. We still talk, hug, and occasionally cuddle, but it’s very apparent that most things discussed have to pass the friend litmus test.
Much like when we were their age, the primary focus is on their social life. I spent hours worrying about what to wear, how to meet up with friends, would I fit in? Would my parents embarrass me? I remember it feeling like life and death, pure survival to fit in or be ridiculed. But for some kids today, it actually is life or death. The pain and lack of resilience result in suicide. Every misstep can be captured on a phone and shared to “the world”. Comparison is not only to your classmates, but everyone on the internet and bullies have 24/7 access online.
Empathy and openness are crucial. Pick your battles wisely. Don’t forget to thank and praise them. Put down your phone, book or other when they are ready to talk. Did I mention empathy?! My best source of empathy is to remind myself that the amount of hormones flooding my preteen and teen, are similar to those during pregnancy. Middle school is years of “pregnancy”, surrounded by other hormonal teens (all without fully developed prefrontal lobes), all potentially to be displayed forever on the nearest device! The kids are constantly waiting to be captured online at their best, and the threat of being captured at their worst is always not far behind.
Are you going to be successful or famous or significant in some way – pressure.
To be honest, much of this pressure starts in middle school and much of the social and hormonal stresses continue in High school. The difference now is the expectation is higher and they must start acting on some major life decisions. Age 14 through 18 suddenly every grade, every test score, every college application, every extracurricular activity, every action all determines how successful your adult life is or isn’t going to be.
Four-year colleges are the norm, “instafamous” and rich is the dream. We are bombarded with images of what life “should” look like and are “failures” when we don’t measure up. Other than during war time, the pressure on these kids (and parents) is unprecedented. At least when there’s a war you can identify the cause. Today’s war is in our homes, we need to re-connect as families, empower our children with coping skills to succeed and know the signs of depression and suicide before it’s too late.
Be gentle with yourself as a parent, you’ve done the best you can. Be gentle with your high schooler, they’ve done the best they can. Trust that things will work out and give grace for learning experiences. Appreciate the time together because it will soon be gone.
I only had one birthday that brought me to my knees crying, the ripe old age of 25! I whined and cried for weeks over the fact that I was halfway to 50. Truth is, it wasn’t about being 50 in the future. It was about the plans that I’d set for my life that hadn’t come to fruition, and I felt like a failure. It was measuring myself to an unreal ideal of what my life should look like, something we are all doing on an unconscious level every day online. Luckily soon after my breakdown my prefrontal lobe matured and I haven’t been upset about a birthday since (or yet?).