Suicide: What to do when kids say they want to kill themselves

I had already been planning on addressing suicidality in children in Privilege of Parenting when the following comment showed up:

“A friend of mine and her family are in pain.  Their 24-year old daughter died last week in an apparent suicide.  She was about to turn in her Master’s thesis, and I don’t think there were any obvious signs that she was depressed or troubled.   She was the oldest of four daughters, the youngest of whom is in elementary school.

Please send healing thoughts to this family.”

*

While I would not want to say anything about this specific situation other than I agree that we might all send some love to this family, no matter what the “facts” turn out to reveal, and to which I am not privy, I did want to address the topic of suicide in kids.

Firstly, if all children, even “grown-up” children (and I hold that adulthood actually begins at twenty-seven in many corners of American culture), are our collective children, then it serves us and those we care about to educate ourselves on how to help when things are so bleak that a person might not want to go on living.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death between 8 and 18 (after accidents and homicide), so it is a pervasive issue in our turbulent and often cruel or seemingly indifferent society.  Given that many more young people attempt suicide than complete the act, this is something that affects many more of our collective kids than we might, at first glance, realize.  Suicide prevention is an often invisible struggle—the battle to prevent the headline, to nip the horror story in the bud… it is exhausting work that takes a great toll on many compassionate volunteers who step up to do it; greater consciousness for both the “parents” of the collective who do show up to answer phones and talk people off ledges, and also for the many suffering “children” who might be contemplating self-harm at this very moment, may mean a bit more productive suffering for the group in the service of our own collective and enlightened self-interest.  In simpler words, it’s painful to think about kids wanting to hurt themselves, but if we can be conscious of it we might help avert it in some subtle degree.

In a sense, suicide is both about the wish to be free of the pain that living sometimes brings, and it is also about rage; kids who feel unsupported, unloved or inadequate may aggress against those who they anxiously depend on by attempting, or succeeding, to hurt themselves.  A common pre-suicide fantasy is that of bereft loved ones who are sorry now that this has happened crying at the funeral of the now-dead person.

It has been said that murder kills one person while suicide kills everyone.  The rage within suicide may be unconsciously held but in my clinical experience it is almost always there.

Also, if depression might be thought of as anger turned inward (a partial explanation, as neurochemicals, stressors, etc. also play a role), suicide is also self-annihilation.  While none of us know what might lie on the other side of the veil that separates the living from the dead, when those we care to help are in so much pain that they cannot stand it, we need to understand this and help be the bowl to catch and hold the dread and annihilation anxiety they cannot contain on their own.

Another way of understanding the wish to die is that a person is trying to express just how truly painful things feel at the moment.  If we can get into accurate connection with such a person, they often feel safer and no longer need to check out from the planet—neither fleeing their own feeling states nor acting out their destructive rage.  Conversely, if we minimize a suicidal person’s suffering or try to cheer them up by pointing out how smart and beautiful they are we only further their feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

While there may be cases where no obvious signs of suicide are present, let’s start with what to do when a child directly says that they wish they were dead or are going to kill themselves.

Take it seriously:  Always ere on the side of caution.  Even if your kid thinks you’re over-reacting, suicidality is a realm where we should jettison concerns about being overprotective and think worst-case scenarios.  Keep a child who expresses self-harm ideation in sight, get them talking (i.e. how would they do it?) and take measures to protect them (i.e. lock up the knives, pills, etc.).

Obviously sometimes people “just say things” and could even be joking around, but to a parent this is not funny and a child benefits from seeing that we are listening and want to keep them safe because we love and treasure them.  Even if you think a kid is just trying to get attention, by taking it seriously they will either get the help they need or learn that this is not a satisfying way to get their needs for attention met (i.e. more trouble than it’s worth if one is not in deep emotional pain).

Consult Professionals:  If in doubt about a child’s safety you can call 911.  Another option would be a suicide hotline (i.e. 1-800-Suicide).  Another would be the family doctor or a therapist if you have a relationship in place with a counselor.  As a parent, you do not have to know how to deal with suicidality on your own; you just need to reach out for appropriate help (which will further help you build your skills and abilities to not just keep kids alive, but help them heal from the feelings that would lead to self-destructive impulses in the first place).

I may be prone toward longish blog-posts, as I seek to give what support I can, however, the distillation is:  when in any doubt about your child’s risk for self harm, take it seriously and get help.

I am also aware that some readers who come across these words may be suicidal themselves.  If so, parent yourself—take it seriously and reach out for help.  I have worked with (and am personally friends with) many adult children of parents who killed themselves and I can attest to the destructive rage in the act and the torment it leaves behind.  You may be angry.  The world certainly appears to be unfair.  But there just may be people who care, people who you may not be feeling at this moment who want you to stay alive; there may also be more than just a way to stay alive, there may be a way to heal and be truly glad that you are alive.  Pain can guide us toward good feelings that last; our pain may be about our wounds, it may be about our falseness with ourselves and others.

Some self-destructive behavior can be non-verbal.  Passing out drinking, car accidents, giving things away—even a sudden elevation in mood and energy after a long sullen period of depression can indicate that the person has a secret plan to end their suffering (and thus experience a transitory boost of relief)—can all be concerning indicators. We can always call a suicide hotline, tell them our observations and concerns and get some feedback on how to play it safer rather than potentially sorry.  And keep in mind that people don’t kill themselves because someone “gave them the idea” (i.e. by asking about it); if you’re concerned, go ahead and ask.  If they say no, at least you noticed something was seriously bothering them; if they say yes, they want someone to help them so they won’t have to do it.

No one can truly and definitively stop someone from killing himself or herself if they are determined to do it, but we just might be able to do the reach out and be in this together.  Ultimately it is not about killing or not killing our ego-selves, it is about our relationships representing our fuller identity (relationships which are rather broken down at the collective level); the help is out there, let it in as an act of love for your kids, or for children you may never meet—they are the kids you once were, the kids who need to be understood and validated and respected… from there healing takes care of itself.

I have had clients realize that they didn’t really need to be in the locked ward of a psych hospital only after spending an afternoon being evaluated and checked into a psych hospital.  I’ve worked with kids who could not feel safe until they were within the locked confines of a psych hospital and who needed some time there to become more cohesive in the face of their despair and shatteredness.  Some people are able to step back from the ledge when their true pain is really heard, others have different levels of disturbance and need a safe place to begin effective treatment (i.e. proper meds, family therapy, etc.)

Suicidality is complex and longer answers would take us down several paths exploring issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, emerging psychotic or bi-polar disorders, losses and traumas (such as sexual abuse) and you can search this site for posts related to those topics.

Ultimately we want to go from preventing suicide to facilitating good feelings that last.

So, let’s dedicate today to being the bowl in whatever way we can manage, sending love to heartbroken families (as suicide can devastate any one of us, sometimes unexpectedly as it is not always obvious) and to any and all of our collective children who might not much feel like being here right now—holding to an alternate truth which is that we do want them to live, grow, heal and be a loving and conscious part of our collective group (as they are part of our group whether they know it or not, and their demise always kills a part of us, whether we know it or not).

Namaste, Bruce

Resources: http://suicidehotlines.com/

http://www.hopeline.com/

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://www.metanoia.org/suicide/

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23 Responses to “Suicide: What to do when kids say they want to kill themselves”

  1. krk Says:

    The information you share is meaningful and poignant.
    Thank you once again.
    krk

  2. cazinou online Says:

    I LOVE THIS BLOG!!!

  3. shannon walsh Says:

    Thanks to this amazing story, my teacher gave me an a+ on my research project !

    This story is really devastating but i think it tells a lot, i learned many things by reading this article !
    once again thanks !

  4. privilegeofparenting Says:

    Hi Shannon, I’m glad this was of use to you—and I’m glad it was academic and not personal :). Here’s to kids knowing how to look out for each other and practicing loving kindness rather than cruelty.

    And thanks so much for taking the time to share kind words with me.

    All Good Wishes, BD

  5. whatsaysyou Says:

    Excellent information and good on you for addressing the issue of suicide and suicidal behaviour among young kids. Keep it up.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hey Whatsaysyou, Thanks for being so encouraging—personally I am saddened by the metrics of how many people search for this topic and read this article, day after day. While I wrote it to try and offer some help, I am hoping that we all might look a little more consciously at a world where so many kids feel so terribly. Namaste

  6. Shaye Says:

    Hi,

    My step son has said on two different ocasions now that he wants to kill himself. I’ve read what you’ve wrote and was wondering if you had any other ideas to help with getting him to talk.

    I don’t really know what to think or do, as he is a child that is not lacking anything material wise. ie-has a bmx bike, 4-wheeler, drag rail…you name it. He says he will not talk to someone if we bring him in. and tell us his life is perfect, but yet says he wants to kill himself…

    Puzzled, hurt and confused…

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Shaye, The very fact that you’re reading, searching for info, trying your best to help seems like the right direction. As I emphasize in this post, the key thing is safety first, so if you have concern about your step-son’s safety, it would be good to consult directly with an expert. Calling a suicide hot-line would be an appropriate step, as well as consulting with the school, pediatrician or, if it feels like an emergency—911.

      As far as getting your step-son to open up, and to better understand his pain (clearly it is not the pain of lacking material things) it can often be a real gift to a child for the grown-ups to seek counseling on behalf of better understanding and better parenting. Often the dysfunction in a family ends up manifesting in the kids, thus working toward greater harmony between split families, looking at depression, stress, substance issues amongst the grown-ups… generally working toward being mindful and happy as parents can trickle down to kids. Learning how to truly listen (and not fix or judge) is a great way to help others feel free to express themselves.

      Finally, as a step-parent, sometimes one becomes the target of resentments (think wicked step-moms in fairy tales); if you can handle and contain this gracefully you can be a positive and containing presence in his life.

      So, take his suicidal talk seriously and seek consultation with experts on a 1:1 basis—let them work with you to tailor an effective approach based on the specifics (his age, traumas, losses, full medical picture, family context, etc.) that may empower you to optimally help your step-son.

      All Good Wishes, BD

  7. Cyndi T Says:

    My son is a wonderful 13 year old who had never struggled with anything. he is intelligent, athletic and makes friends easily. We recently moved back to my home town, leaving his entire life back in VA. he left all his friends, his football team, his soccer team, his best friend and his Military Dad in VA. to move here so that we wouldnt have to move the kids during high school (which we thought would be even harder than moving now) We have a large family support system here and we are in contact with his friends and Dad daily. He has never had a discipline problem and is a kid with a strong character and moral base. Within the past several weeks he has been saying he hates his life and wants to kill himself. I feel helpess in how to help him. I share with him that I know things are hard, that they may seem desperate but that there is nothing we cannot deal with together, no matter how hard it seems. I share with him that he is not alone in his struggle although ours (his Dad and myself) is different. I try to remind him of the good things he has in his life ( not material but people that care about him and things he takes pride in). It is affecting his school work and his behavior at school. He looks lost and sad but is hiding it well at school. I have spoken to the priest he seems to have bonded with and he will be meeting with him but I just do not know what to do. Please help me.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Cindy,

      Firstly I’m sorry that you are facing such difficult feelings—it’s terrible when our children suffer. I would encourage you to realize that the very fact that you’re feeling your son’s angst so acutely is part of helping manage and contain it. This is good parenting. You are recognizing the problem, asking for help, seeing a balanced picture of the situation—things that may be a bit beyond the capacity of your son who, at thirteen, cannot be expected to have a mature perspective.

      Some additional things to consider here are the fact that at thirteen, a boy’s developmental needs are strongly related to becoming a man. Thus separation from father, football (and football coaches), soccer (and soccer coaches), and best friend all when he’s transitioning from boyhood to early-stage manhood (which doesn’t really take full root until about 24, when the brain is finished developing the basic full wiring) is highly stressing the coping skills he has available.

      In simple words, your son is suffering a lack of community and support at a time when he particularly needs it. He needs to be understood in how he feels (i.e. that he hates the painful and lonely feelings that he has right now, and expresses this as “hating his life”).

      Given that accurate understanding will help more than reminding him of his blessings, it seems you’re on the right track with staying connected, open and having him have his daily contact with his dad—and in reflecting back to him that you hear how terrible this all feels for him and acknowledge that anyone in his position would feel this way—and that this doesn’t make his feelings any less painful.

      As for the verbalization that he wants to kill himself, this is scary and this is what lead you searching for this blog post; we do want to take this seriously. If it is a “cry for help” we want to be sure we hear it, and offer whatever support we can. Talking to the priest sounds like a good step; perhaps speaking with the school counselor to inform them of this concern would also begin to form a sort of team of caring adults around your son so that you are not alone with his pain and anger and potentially self-destructive emotions.

      Suicidal ideation, and suicide itself, often has a lot of anger in it. Thus when someone turns that anger against their own self, it can manifest in a wish to harm one’s self. Validating your son’s anger at his situation and not encouraging him to hide or suppress that anger may make him more testy and irritable, but less bottled up and self-destructive.

      As the above-post suggests, it’s best to take any suicidal talk very seriously. Hopefully your son will turn out to have been expressing his feelings of pain more than an intention to act on these words, but he needs, and deserves, whatever emotional support it takes to stay safe. If he cannot be sure he feels safe from harming himself, then you should call his doctor, or even 911. Help will come if you do this, and sometimes it takes an experience with the hospital to help a person realize that they don’t ultimately want to die but are scared and their emotional pain has become temporarily unmanageable.

      Finally, again I am sorry that your family is going through separation and hardship, I’m sorry that your son is feeling the worst of that pain, but I’m glad you did the reach-out here and encourage you to keep taking this situation seriously. You may, as you have already done in writing your comment and contacting the priest, extend this wish for help to speaking with your priest yourself, or even by seeking some counseling for yourself (perhaps the military offers some sort of mental health services to spouses?) to empower you to stay strong and loving in the service of your husband and your son—and all our collective children.

      All Good Wishes, Bruce

      • Cyndi T Says:

        Bruce, I just now noticed that you had responded. Although I have received several emails of your replies to others I had not seen one for my own situation and I AM SO GLAD I took the time to look deeper. Thank you so much for your advice, your kind words, your assurance, etc… The information you provided about the separation my son is going thru as a 13 yr old young man and the community he is missing was astounding to me. Any further resources you could provide me regarding that would be IMMENSELY appreciated. My son has 3 uncles and a grandfather here that I can call on for support and understanding more about this phase of his life would certainly help me. The talks with the priest have certainly helped but need to be more consistent. We have had some difficulty in getting teachers on board with understanding that there are some emotional issues that need to take precedence over 2 missing assignments but contacting the school counselor is a fantastic idea as well. I am hoping for good things and praying for great things. My son has changed his wording to I hate my life right now, which, although is just semantics, is absolute music to my ears. Thank you again so much for your help and for taking the time to help so many of us. Again, any resources on the above mentioned reference you made would be wonderful.Heck- how about resources on 13 yr olds boys. Ive never had one before and certainly am aware that I need all the help I can get!
        Grateful and Blessed for your help,
        Cyndi

      • privilegeofparenting Says:

        Hi Cyndi,

        There is another post about when kids say they hate themselves (which is similar to hating their lives): http://bit.ly/aHntca.

        A post specifically on oppositional behavior in teens might be worth a look: http://bit.ly/pFLeMW.

        A post about helping kids feel understood could be useful: http://bit.ly/pV4WKX.

        The theme of adolescents pulling away from us is the subject of this post: http://bit.ly/nEVRub.

        I hope to be publishing my own book in the coming months, so if you subscribe to Privilege of Parenting you’ll be sure to hear about it when it’s ready.

        Meanwhile, a popular book about parenting boys, “Raising Cain,” might be of some use or comfort: http://amzn.to/pZzdb.

        All Good Wishes, Bruce

  8. Samantha M. Says:

    I have a 9 yr old daughter, whom has said she doesn’t want to be here anymore or wants to kill herself about 2/3 times now when mad at daddy being gone. She takes it out on me and we’ve fought, cried etc… as she will not listen to me at all when she gets that angry over her father being gone. Usually she sets off when asked to do homework or clean and the first time I thought she was doing it for attention or didn’t want to clean. And I ask her what is really wrong and she cries and says she wants daddy to come back,she hates where he’s at etc…

    He left a few months ago, but is home almost daily to spend time with us for a few hours. Having dinner and attending all of her sporting events, calls to say good night and good morning, etc… Yes, there is another person involved and our daughter knows why daddy left and what he did that was so wrong w/this person. He lives with her now and our daughter hates it. She will not have anything to do w/her and thankfully he won’t ask her to, as I would not let her near this person anyway. We both agree and we’ve both promised her she doesn’t have to be around anyone or go there, that seems to help.

    I’ve talked to her after she calms down and she cries and says she just wants daddy to come back home and she hates her and hates him for leaving. I try to console her and tell her I understand because I feel similiar pain, it’s hard to watch him leave every night, but I also feel it’s important he is here for her so much. I know I am lucky he is trying in that respect. But I can not promise her daddy will come home. We have talked and he still loves me and wants to come home but doesn’t want to untill he’s resolved his issues so he/we don’t hurt our daughter in anyway… and I agreed, telling him I don’t want him home unless he is sure he wants to only be here w/me. I will not put our daughter thru anymore h— than she’s already been thru. I’ve tried to tell her that she is the most important thing in my life and no matter what I am not going to abandon her. I try to let her know I understand how she is feeling…

    Am I doing the right thing listening to her and trusting when she tells me she doesn’t really want to hurt herself. She just gets so angry, then gets angry at herself saying she’s so stupid for saying that and it scares her that she says that. I told her it scares me too and that I need her and love her and want her here w/me. so does daddy, that we’d be devasted if anything ever happened to her, that she is so important to me and I love her with all my heart.

    I am so scared, I don’t want to be that parent that didn’t do enough. It would kill me inside if I lost her. I think she’s only 9, I know she’s really hurting inside and she doesn’t want to talk to daddy about it because she says he always has his little positive sayings but doesn’t really listen, she’ll thank me for listening and understanding which I think is good, but you worry am I just being told what she thinks I want to hear? I can’t imagine at her age she would do that? maybe an older child. She seems sincere and happy after we’ve talked…

    thoughts….? Please anything else I should be doing? I have asked her if she wants to talk to a therapist and she says she doesn’t think she really needs to. I just worry, is my listening & talking to her enough, am I enough? Daddy has had some good talks w/her, and told her nothing is her fault and he will Always be here no matter what but he doesn’t know if/when he will come home.
    Thank you,
    Samatha M.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Samantha,

      It sounds like you are a very loving and generous-of-spirit mom. Your pain is palpable in both what you are going through and in how it is impacting your little girl.

      In a blog like this I cannot be in a position to reassure you with any certainty, but rather to be a place where this, and other, issues can be shared and discussed in order to support each other as parents to do our best and keep our children safe to the best of our ability.

      That said, it really does sound like you are doing an admirable job of hearing your child’s pain and anger and helping to contain it and mentally metabolize it. This really takes it out of a parent, but it also reduces the need for children to escalate their message of despair (i.e. with an actual attempt at self-harm) so that a parent might take it seriously.

      Children this young, and younger, do kill themselves. While your daughter sounds like she cries it out and de-escalates when you listen to her, it would be a good idea to both contact her school counselor and teacher(s) so they know what she is going through.

      An excellent idea at this point in your situation would be to consult with a psychologist or therapist directly. This would serve the double purpose of helping you sort through your feelings and have support so that you can turn around and continue to be there for your daughter as a single mom who has been hurt.

      This might also set the stage for some couples work, which can help you heal your relationship and the betrayal, or even help you part ways in as loving a manner as possible. It sounds like you and your husband are both doing your best to put your little girl first, and that is the way we all want to roll as parents.

      It’s not clear if your husband knows about his daughter’s suicidal talk, but he should know, even if he is not great at listening.

      One other note, your daughter is discharging her anger onto you because you are a safe place to express this. While painful, it underscores that she feels trust with you—the trust to show her authentic and not so sweet or happy self. Beyond keeping her safe, we want to help her heal any shame she may carry, as if this situation is somehow her fault (sometimes that is a defense against the worse, unconscious realization that we have no control of many things).

      Depending on her level of maturity for her age, her brain may be developing in a manner that makes her pain much sharper and harder to manage (http://bit.ly/q9g4qu).

      Finally, I’m glad that you reached out here to communicate, rather that suffering alone. I think talking with friends but also with a professional will give you that extra margin of safety and security about your daughter. As I mention in the post above, when in doubt, call 911, or one of the hotlines. With suicidality it’s always better to be safe than sorry (and kids can be impulsive and miscalculate a cry for help into something much worse). Also, when in doubt, keep her close, let her regress temporarily (as being younger was when daddy was still with you and this pain was not plaguing her), do what you need to do to feel safe and this will help you transmit this to your child.

      All Good Wishes, Bruce

  9. Samantha M. Says:

    I did ask her about talking to someone and she says, “I don’t know” but definitely doesn’t want me to make her talk to the school counselor. She would rather someone who doesn’t know her and wants me to be there… I feel that it’s very important for me to keep my word to her and if I say I understand and I won’t then I need to keep that promise as that is the major problem w/daddy at the moment, she doesn’t trust. I can’t blame her, he has a lot of work ahead of him. I try to get her to talk to him, but she doesn’t like to because she says he just says the same thing and either says be nice to your mom or gets mad at her or tries to sugar coat things. She says he’s stupid.

    I have to say, she is wise beyond her years. She always has been, she’s in advanced classes and gets straight A’s even thru all of this! That I’m thankful for but, she has had issues of not wanting to go to school.

    When you say it’s okay to let her regress, I’m glad to hear that, but worry if I’m doing the right thing. I do let her sleep w/me when she asks (which is a lot) as she tells me it makes her feel safe. She tells me thank you a lot and expresses she’s thankful for me being there for her. I’m not trying to toot my horn, but am wondering does this sound like a true positive thing coming from her. I believe it is. My husband tends to say she’s manipulating me and is worried that it will make her too much of a baby or mama’s girl for lack of a better way to say it. But I am just trying to make her feel safe and loved because she constantly tells me how she feels he abandoned us even though he comes by all the time. I hope I am not over compensating? I just remember when I was young issues w/my dad – he was an alcoholic – and gone a lot. But I was always able to talk to my mom about most anything, and she always made me feel safe. She was always there. So I try to keep the lines of communication totally open. If she asks me I tell her the truth, whether I like the subject or not, I feel she needs to trust me. and if she wants to sleep w/me and snuggle then I let her. I feel like when she’s ready and feels secure, she’ll stop. I know she’s going thru the beginning of puberty and is torn between wanting to be a big girl and has all these questions but still wants to be my little pumpkin.

    We do butt heads too though, as we are a lot alike and when she takes it out on me, sometimes I yell at first till I realize she’s hurting and even though I am I need to step back and think of her first. I know I do this because I’m over tired, sad myself and just frustrated at times. But I feel horrible when I do!!! We always end up talking things thru and she tells me she knows I’m hurting too and that’s why we both get mad. I hate that she is having to go thru this when it’s a time her life that she should just be worrying about fun, friends and school etc… Guessing I really need to stop yelling when she gets angry and pushes me. She’s very stubborn and when she gets mad she doesn’t want to listen that’s how it comes to yelling when I’m at my wits end. I tell her I am not perfect and I am sorry… and I know I should not get angry and yell.

    I guess I am rambling on now…or venting as it’s hard to talk to people who just want to tell you their side and not listen to you. Friends and family just want to tell me what to do, not listen to how I feel or how I am trying to work on the possibility of saving my family, because I’ve forgiven him and I do truly love him. and really the last thing our daughter needs is a mom who is going out to bars and trying to meet someone!? People can be really stupid sometimes. I just want to scream and ask them are they crazy??

    …as for a counselor, I would rather her not talk to the school one either as I don’t feel she’s got the qualifications my daughter needs. She tells me how all the kids joke about how they can cause trouble and get out of class to go play games with her. Many Parents have expressed their dislike for her as well.

    This said, I don’t have the financial means to see a counselor, are there organizations that offer help, when someone can’t afford it? I just don’t want to randomly pick someone when it’s my daughters’ safety and health on the line, that is what has me stumped at the moment. Where do I start.

    Thank you for getting back so quickly this evening, if feels good to talk to someone unbiased in their oppinion because they know us.
    I hope I’ve made sense as it is very late and I am writing a lot!
    Thank you again.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Samantha,

      In a sense, and except for life-and-death sorts of questions for which safety is the clear guiding principle, the answer to most questions is, “It depends…”

      You have noticed that the notion of being heard proves more healing than advice. When you provide as much to your daughter she responds better than when her dad tells her to either cheer up or to change her behavior toward you. Likewise if friends and family would truly listen to what you are feeling and saying you would be able to feel safe and connected; this empowers us to know what is best and, more importantly, to be able to do it.

      We all know we shouldn’t yell at our kids—it’s managing to keep our temper without repressing our feelings that’s so hard to pull off, especially when we are under stress (emotional, physical, economic, etc.).

      Research suggests that blood flow to the good decision-making, and socially adept connecting, aspects of the brain drops off when blood flows to the more primitive part of the brain—the one that governs anger and fear. Thus we really are a bit less intelligent when we are angry or scared (and are not even necessarily aware that we are being irrational in those dark and all too human moments). For thoughts on anger management see: http://bit.ly/a8YoOR.

      With regard to allowing regression vs. encouraging regression a lot depends on whether we are able to do what’s best for our child in a clear way and having some sense of when its our own need for comfort that prompts us to give a hug or encourage sleeping in our bed.

      The notion of “manipulating” relates to the question, “Why do people manipulate?” Perhaps if someone doesn’t trust that they can get what they need by being direct or honest they resort to indirect means. Thus if we give our kids attention, affection, support and validation when they are not in crisis or acting out we may avert their need for “manipulation.”

      But as I say, it all depends. Sometimes people change their behavior because of an underlying medical condition, or because of a secret they are holding. Listening rather than making assumptions and rushing to “fix” things tends to be a safe and loving play.

      In order to enhance our ability to discern our needs from our children’s need, and also to heal our own wounds of the past, things like counseling and, if parents were alcoholic or substance abusing, al-anon can be an excellent (and affordable) path toward healing.

      As for finding a good counselor one can afford it may make sense to first determine who you would see if money was no object. For example asking your pediatrician or other people you might trust or respect who they would send their child to, especially if money wasn’t the issue. From there you could call this person and explain your situation, tell them what you can afford and ask them to please make a referral to the best option you can afford. This might be an intern who is being well supervised by a senior therapist; this might be a low-fee clinic in the community, perhaps you find someone who has space in their practice for a sliding scale client.

      Part of this equation includes checking with your insurance, if you have insurance, to see what they would pay (and to whom). Add the most you feel you could afford in addition to your reimbursement and you have the fee you could afford. When it comes to therapy, just like other professionals you would consult, you want the best you can afford rather than the cheapest you can find.

      Another option would be calling a local university to see if they have a counseling center. Often that center might have referrals of therapists in the community at your price point.

      Finally, research suggests that mindfulness practices, such as yoga or meditation, are effective for anxiety, depression and a host of emotional struggles. Often this is money and time very well spent.

      Hope this helps. Namaste, Bruce

      • Samantha M. Says:

        Thank you so much… I have had classes on adult children of alchoholics etc…. and do understand a lot of why sometimes I do regress and yell. As you so perfectly said sometimes we have a hard time repressing our feelings, I have gotten much better at not yelling as it just fuels the fire and accomplishes absolutely nothing!!

        I will continue to encourage her to sleep in her room, and what you said makes sense to me. It’s nice to hear all I’ve been thinking from someone outside. I feel like I am on the right path to helping her be her happy self again, with or without daddy. I feel like I need to teach her that. That no matter what he does he loves her and me and she needs to know that. He will always be a big part of her life.

        I will research therapists. Thank you so much for a starting point as I just felt I didn’t know where to start looking for a good one! You’ve given me many good ideas!!! I am so thankful I found this blog. I feel I’ve been heard. I feel a new sense of confidence in what I need to do for my daughter and myself. I did join a gym at the beginning when this all happened it’s allowed her and I both to meet new people and have fun and yoga is great! She can even do kid yoga classes.

        Still a lot of work to do but thank you for your help in guiding me to helping her and even myself to be a better mom!

      • privilegeofparenting Says:

        🙂

  10. emily fribourg Says:

    i am a kid and my parent bettn me a 1,000 times i have brian damege, i want o kill myself for it. i think i was not expost to be at all . no cares or loves. i cant stand being arround them any more i told a cop and they dont even care i just need adopted and no one will do that because they hate me . i have bruzes form me louser mom and dad i just want to kill myslef for it . i preying that god takes me now like right away now he wont even listen to me either . i guess i relly am not exsoised to be in the wrold.

    not exposted to be in the wrold by
    emily jane may fribourg

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Dear Emily,

      This is a heart-breaking message and I am sorry that you have found your way, alone, to this site meant for parents to be helping children.

      I have known many children who have hurt like you do, and you do need help to stay safe and to heal. You deserve this.

      What you can do right now is call 1-800-784-2433 (I spoke with them this evening and they are expecting your call).

      Another option, if you do not feel safe, is to call 911 and tell them what you have written here. I know sometimes you do not get the help the system promises, but please do not give up.

      Finally, I encourage you to hang in and find a way to get through this pain and to grow up and then you can help other kids get through their pain—this is how we can have a better world.

      I think you want to live and to have the life you deserve. Please trust that people who hurt kids are not “bad” people, they are just scared and hurt. Believe it or not, your parents love you somewhere in their hurt and angry hearts, just as you love them (even though they hurt you). It’s all very confusing—and it helps so much to have someone to talk to.

      So, please do call 1-800-784-2433, they are experts at helping with just this sort of problem. They are there 24/7 and it’s free.

      Maybe someday we will all care about each other better and all this hurting might stop. Please hang in and be part of this.

      Warmest Regards, Privilege of Parenting

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Emily do not give up!!!!! There is always somehting brighter out there waiting for you! I know, I’ve been through some horrible things growing up, thought there may be bad in hte world… joy is always around the corner yours to be taken! You deserve it!!!! please call that number and get the help you need, be strong!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Hello there. I need some help. I have a friend, but this friend lives in another country. He has attempted suicide before, and is still in depression and has been for quite awhile. Today he told me he doesn’t want to live anymore. I don’t know what to do. He’s tried everything. He’s talked to a therapist, gone on anti-depressants, tried just moving on on his own, and nothing brings him out of it. I’ve tried really hard to bring him out of it too. I try to get him to talk about it, I listen and I try solutions. I’m really scared he’s going to try to kill himself again. I have no idea where he lives in his city, so it’s not like I can just call up the police and tell them if I feel it’s dangerous. I just don’t know.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi to you as well. I thank you for this note because it is about compassion for someone you care about, who lives far away, for whom you don’t even know their exact location—and yet you feel their pain and their fear and you wish to help them. This, in and of itself, strikes me as beautiful. You embody a “parenting” attitude of caring for each other. This is the world we want to live in; the world of fear and materialism, of alienation and despair is the world your friend is ambivalent about staying around for. Perhaps it serves to validate your friend’s pain and encourage them to see it in terms of transition. As with childhood and life (birth, weaning, adolescence, launching, marriage, kids, loss and death) transitions are the places we grow, and they are the places we break down.

      If you can intuit the place your friend is trying to arrive at (i.e. trust, autonomy, self-esteem, love, accomplishment, security, generosity, healing) maybe you can help them see a way to build a bridge and cross over it.

      There is a difference between simply not being dead (yet) and being truly alive. Some part of your friend wants to be more alive, more loved, more happy—or else they wouldn’t express their pain and despair to you. Yet dealing with the profound pain and anger of suicidality can be too much for an untrained, but loving friend.

      The pain of others can be very heavy—too much to carry for just one person. This is why linking in ways that are compassionate may help us all stay alive and learn how to love and enjoy our lives together. Thus I welcome your own burden of concern to this space, not that I can particularly hold it, but that we can create spaces to hold our collective pain (and then not be as inclined toward violence, be it toward our selves or toward others).

      In terms of direct help, you can urge your friend to call the suicide hot-lines linked to this blog. You could also call the suicide hotline and ask them for direct advice in response to the things your friend is saying to you. Perhaps you might be able to make it a conference call with your friend.

      Finally, although you do not know the exact location, you could work to contact the local hospital or police in their country and see if they would be willing to communicate with this person by whatever link you have to them (phone, internet, etc.). Maybe you would learn of some community resources in their country of which your friend is as yet unaware.

      While we cannot stop someone who is determined to hurt themselves, we can hear their pain and not turn a blind eye. You are a good friend in bothering to try and help—perhaps you will discover others who will join you in caring closer to your friend’s neighborhood as we awaken to the fact that we are all neighbors and we are all in our collective situation together.

      Warmest Regards, Bruce

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