There is nothing more painful than losing a child to suicide, and many parents feel powerless to do anything to prevent it except hope that it doesn’t happen. A new study by the University of Cincinnati reveals that parents can play a tremendous role in helping their teens avoid self-harm.
“Parents ask us all the time, ‘What can we do?'” said King, who coordinates UC’s health promotion and education doctoral program and serves as Director of the Center for Prevention Science. “You can tell them you’re proud of them, that they did a good job, get involved with them, and help them with their homework.”
“A key is to ensure that children feel positively connected to their parents and family,” added Vidourek, who serves as Co-Director of the Center for Prevention Science.
The results of the study were startling. In particular, 12 and 13yo children whose parents rarely or never said, “I’m proud of you” were nearly five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, nearly seven times more likely to formulate a suicide plan and about seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Similarly, 12- and 13 year olds with parents who rarely or never told them they did a good job or helped them with their homework were at excessively high risk for suicide.
Likewise, 16- and 17-year-olds whose parents rarely or never told the children they are proud of them are about three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and almost four times more likely to make a suicide plan and attempt suicide than peers whose parents sometimes or often did.
The key, as with many problems associated with kids and teens, is attachment, attachment, attachment. The stronger the emotional bond you have with your children–and more specifically, the stronger the emotional bond your kids feel like they have with you–the more likely it is that your children will choose healthy options for dealing with their problems and avoid more dangerous, and deadly, choices.
For more information on how you can strengthen your emotional bond with your children whether they are toddlers or teens, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids. Or, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about how our Catholic tele-counseling practice can help you transform your marriage, family, and personal life.