My phone rings again. Another mother with a child in crisis.
This time a head on collision with a tree. Thankfully the young man is alive and getting the help he needs. Many times that isn’t the case. Many times we are too late, and their pain had been too much for them to bare.
Since sharing our families story about our son’s battle with depression, PTSD and his subsequent suicide attempt in 2012 (learn more at DASIUM) these types of phone calls and emails are becoming more frequent.
Is it the times? Is it the environment? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that we as parents need to arm ourselves with everything we can. We need to know what to look for and how to get help.
Today I will tackle the question I am asked most often by fellow parents.
How do I know if my child is in distress?
First and foremost: If you notice a sudden change, don’t dismiss it as “typical teen” behavior. Begin to ask direct and specific questions with calm concern and then LISTEN to your child’s responses. Should you find cause for alarm seek professional/medical help immediately.
While I wish I had the perfect answer, the reality is that every child is different and what is a warning sign for one may not be cause for concern in another.
Here are 7 Tell Tale Signs Your Teen at Risk
- They have angry outbursts or intense frustration especially to common everyday happenings.
- An increased sensitivity to daily life (crying over the little things, super sensitive to things you say).
- They have become defensive.
- They have lost interest in activities, foods and friends they normally enjoy.
- They have a general apathy toward life.
- There is a change in their ability to relate to others or have they begun to isolate themselves.
- There are physical changes in their appearance (ie have they begun to wear long sleeves or articles of clothing that are more concealing? Has their personal hygiene changed dramatically? Are they not caring or obsessive about their appearance?)
These 7 things either on their own or cumulatively can be warning signs of a much bigger problem. If your child exhibits these behaviors, I encourage you to act on the side of caution. If at any time you feel you child is at risk of harming themselves, seek emergency medical attention immediately. And should it not be emergent, I recommend that you begin with their primary care physician.
Please don’t wait, don’t dismiss and don’t judge.
Probe when your child answers “I’m Fine”.
Don’t Yell, Nag or Give Advice…
Just Ask, Ask and then Ask Again.
Your child needs you to work with them to find the support they need. Their life may depend on it. I know my son’s did. As parents the best way we can help our children is to educate ourselves on the warning signs and act at the first sign of trouble. (Get your copy of Warning Signs: A Parenting Guide for Discovering if Your Teen is at Risk for Depression, Addiction or Suicide today)
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com