- Wait until your child finishes talking.
- Watch your body language and your facial expressions as you listen. If the content shocks you, stay calm and continue to listen.
- Before you start giving advice or your opinions, find out what your children expect from this interaction…are they looking for someone to listen? Are they looking for reassurance? Or do they want your help?
- Express your honest opinions and feelings in response—only watch your words. Children respect your point of view if they feel you are being honest with them. They can pick out when you utter a lie to tide over that situation.
- Use your judgment—sometimes they may not realize the magnitude of the problem. They don’t have your years of experience. Having said that, don’t react to every problem with the same intensity. Else they will worry about your reactions and won’t share their concerns with you.
Share your feelings:
- You know you care but do they? Show them in your day to day actions and words. Don’t wait for a crisis.
- Set aside time for each child—do something with each one separately. My husband talks about his weekly walks to his mom’s office for an ice cream treat. Each of his siblings had one evening set aside for the special treat. This is from thirty five years ago:)
Talk about conflicts, emotions, mental health and support services:
- Don’t glorify suicide. Honor, pride and being stubborn don’t have anything to do with it.
- Be factual about the possible causes. Don’t make light of it either.
- As a society we are very melodramatic. TV shows and movie abound with absurd quotes on how suicide is the answer for all kinds of ‘evils.’ Discuss why these are irresponsible statements.
- Discuss mental illnesses as treatable conditions.
- Discuss the different options available to get help—who do they call? Where can they find information?
- If a friend or family member committed suicide, seek professional counseling services for the survivors—start with therapy; don’t jump to medication. Coming to terms with grief is a time consuming process and there are no short cuts. This also prevents copy cat suicides.
- Resist the temptation to do the guilt trip, “Think of the people who are left behind.” The focus should stay on their emotional needs.
- Make time to understand yourself—what would shock you the most about your children’s choices? Why? What values and ideas will you compromise on and what will you hold to be absolute? Why? Prioritize these in your mind.
- Assess your own conflict resolution skills. You can’t teach your child skills you don’t have. So make a conscious effort to improve your skills.