Every teen and child expresses their own mental health challenges differently, which can make it hard for the adults in their life to understand. Parents and guardians can help their kids find hope when they tap into what’s going on inside that growing body and mind.
- Observe. Notice body language, actions, tone, eye contact (or lack of it). Use your “spider sense” to get a picture of what might not be coming out in words. If something feels off to you, it is likely a good indicator. Trust your gut.
- Get the facts. Ask them to describe what they are feeling, or what happened to make them feel this way. Quietly take it all in without interrupting, jumping to judgement or trying to solve anything – be a listening ear and not an advice-giver. Don’t be shy about asking the tough questions.
- There’s a common belief that if you ask someone if they are thinking about self-harm, that it encourages the action. Research has shown this is rarely the case and knowing warning signs and risks is one major step in prevention.
- Keep it conversational. Try to understand what’s under the surface by asking simple questions. What is causing them to feel this way? Is there a series of events that led up to where they are now? Is it an interaction? Is it a loss? Is it simply a strong, persistent feeling with no real root?
- Ask what you can do to help. If they don’t know, ask to stay with them as they ride it out – or, ask if they need space and time to heal on their own. There are no quick fixes, but asking and wholeheartedly supporting your child in the way that they want while in crisis is key.
If they are emotionally ready to participate with you, work together on next steps and creating a path forward. If that path forward requires professional help, Washburn Center offers accessible, affordable and compassionate care.
Our licensed, compassionate therapists will walk alongside of you to develop an understanding of your teen’s social, emotional and behavioral development and determine a path for healing. Learn more about Washburn Center’s assessments and services.
If you have a teen or child who is in immediate danger, call 911.
If you or someone near you is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress that could escalate to self-harm, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK(8255). The lifeline is available 24 hours (English or en Español).