Suicide Prevention: Strengthening Our Kids to Handle Stress and THRIVE
By Trishia Van Orden, Dina Alexander, MS, and Melody Bergman
With each school year we experience new joys, new friendships, and new worries. And while these are a normal part of life, for some the accompanying stress can be overwhelming. It is important for both children and adults to learn to cope with the stressors that come from everyday life.
As parents, we need to teach our children how to handle stress in a healthy way so they do not become overwhelmed and depressed. We can help our kids thrive as we nurture growth and balance in all the different areas of their lives.
5 Essential Areas of Child Development
Social health: Social pressures are unavoidable in our culture. and it is extremely important to teach our kids resilience in the face of peer pressure, negative cultural messages, or even bullying. Some crucial social skills our kids must develop are:
- Respect for self and others
- Healthy boundaries
- The ability to make and keep friends
We need to teach our children to keep the Golden Rule: Treat others the way we’d like to be treated. We should model this rule ourselves and discuss it with our children often. And in our digitally saturated world, we also need to emphasize that it should be applied in real life and online!
We can also help kids understand what healthy boundaries are. Do they understand that there are some things we do and share with people we have known for a long time, that we would not share with people we just met? Do they understand the relationship differences between acquaintances, friends, and family?
Emotional health: We need to model emotional health for our children. It has been said that the home we are raised in is the greatest classroom we ever attend. We can teach specific habits and practices to help children to learn to identify and manage their emotions effectively, including:
- Positive self-talk
- Using the language of emotions (Children need to know how to identify their feelings and the feelings of others.)
Intellectual health: It’s important to teach our kids how to care for and value their inherent intelligence. But we also need to realize that valuing intellectual health is not the same thing as praising high tests scores or straight A’s. Teach children to:
- Use initiative. Encourage kids to take action and explore new things.
- Follow their curiosity. When they ask questions, be positive in answering them. Encourage their curiosity.
- Do research. If you don’t know the answer to their questions, show your kids how to research and find answers.
- Think critically. When you find “answers” show them how to think critically about what you read and see.
Spiritual health: Spirituality provides us with a sense of purpose and meaning! It’s likely that you have already introduced the concept of spirituality to your child. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, or a Secular Humanist, it is vital to talk about belief, community, gratitude, and love. It is also critical to talk to your kids about change.
Teach your children to appreciate change (the good and the bad) in their lives. This gives them a useful tool that strengthens their ability to live a healthy, balanced life.
Physical health: The mind-body connection is something that is sometimes overlooked in a person’s overall well-being. Physical activity is also a great coping skill for kids, giving them something to turn to in times of anger and stress and helping to calm them enough to deal with problems.
- Be active with your kids. Make a goal to hike or walk with your kids a few times each month.
- Be an example of healthy body image. Show your kids that you accept your body and appreciate it for what it can do, not just how it looks.
- Help your kids understand addiction. Here is a great lesson to help you. Addiction does not just refer to substances. New neurological research shows how food, gambling, gaming, and pornography can affect the brain the same way drugs and alcohol do.
The above skills can be taught through everyday events, family lessons, activities, conversations, and by personal example. Best of all, engaging in these lessons will create a deep connection between you and your child!
All of these ideas can be taught and reinforced by using our our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child. It is an amazing resource put together by several parents and professionals that focuses on building skills and creating enduring connections between parents and children.
By strengthening and teaching our children how to handle stress, we help prepare them for times when stress and worries become hard to bear. Sometimes, however, our kids may have stress and situations we don’t know about. They may even have chemical imbalances in their brains that make depression inevitable.
Thus, it is important to know the signs of a child who may be depressed or thinking about suicide:
- Having a preoccupation with death (looking for ways to die)
- Talking about wanting to die or about harming oneself (This is not a bid for attention; this is a cry for help.)
- Talking about being a burden or feeling worthless, hopeless, trapped, empty, or lacking a reason to live, or feeling like a burden
- Saying goodbye to family and friends
- Giving or throwing away prized possessions
- Experiencing severe pain, either mental or physical
- Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities
- Taking risks and being reckless
- Displaying rage, aggression, or rebellious behavior
- Not accepting praise
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Decline in quality of work
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, seek out help immediately by:
- Determining if the person is in immediate risk
- Call 911 or take person to emergency room
- Removing anything lethal from the area
- Contacting a crisis line
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1 800 273 8255
- The Crisis Text-line is 741741
- The National Hopeline Network is 1 800 784 2433
- The Trevor Project (LGBTQ youth) is 1 866 488 7386
- Offering a listening ear, love, and support. Don’t try to “fix” them; simply listen and offer them some resources where they can find help, such as a therapist.
- Never leave a suicidal person alone If you cannot be there find someone who can.
It is always important to remember that people who are suicidal are looking for help; they need a way to find relief from the problems that are hurting them. Offer them that help and friendship. You can be their one chance of finding the assistance that they need.
For more information on suicide prevention please check out these websites:
Trishia is a wife and mother of three wonderful little girls. She received her bachelor’s from Brigham Young University-Idaho in Marriage and Family Studies. She has a love for psychology and one day wishes to open her own Family Life Education Center where she lives. She also dreams of getting her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Trishia loves to be outdoors and spend time with her husband and little girls.
Dina is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids. She is the creator of How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. Dina received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and has taught in various capacities for the past 19 years, including marriage enhancement and art for young children. She has also worked with teenage girls in a residential treatment setting, adults with drug addictions and special needs children. She is a dedicated, whole hearted mom of three children and loves spending time with them and her amazing husband. Together, they live in Texas.
Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys and creator of the blog MamaCrossroads (http://mamacrossroads.com). She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Melody has made it her mission to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect their children. Her experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse and former spouse of a sex addict bring unique perspective to the fight against pornography and sexual exploitation.
Educate and Empower kids. (2016). 30 days to a stronger child. United States: Rising Parent Media, LLC.