Every day in the United States, nearly 1,500 teens attempt suicide. If you are raising a teen who seems troubled or has dealt with suicidal ideations in the past, helping them cope with the loss of a family member, friend, or admired personality can feel like trying put a fire out with gasoline.
Here are some strategies clinicians use to help troubled youths progress through the grieving process.
Individuals are more likely to pose a danger to themselves or others in the immediate aftermath of an incident. Thus, during the 24 to 48 hours after learning about a tragic event, it's important to make sure that your teen is safe.
Keep an eye on them: although you don't want them to perceive that you're "hovering," you should ensure that someone is with them as much as possible. This might mean inserting a trusted friend or confidant into the situation.
Provide distractions: watching movies, going for walks, or going for coffee can allow your teen to process their grief, but also gives them a distraction and outlet for their grief. Exercise, in particular, can help balance their mood.
Once you've ensured that your teen is safe, you can move on to putting pieces in place to help them move forward.
Although clearly communicating with your teen that you will support them through the grieving process is critical, communicating with those individuals and groups that can help you teen is equally important.
Social Media: large communication platforms, like social media, aren't likely to be appropriate for these situations. However, if your teen communicates this information via social media, you will want to monitor anything they post or receive.
Friend and family: how and when you communicate with your teen's friends and family members should be carefully considered. When communicating to friends and family, it's important to stipulate the type of access you think is appropriate for the situation. Many clinicians recommend giving face-to-face access to friends and family members that your teen trusts, but that you also trust as well.
School: much of your teen's self-identity is likely wrapped up in the school they attend. Communicating about the tragedy is important, but you should be careful to only give the information to teachers, counselors, and administrators. Coaches can also be an important resource if your teen participates in sports. The coach can communicate pertinent information to the team as needed.
Although the grieving process is never the same for two people, providing your teen with safety and communication can help them deal with their grief. For more information, contact local professionals like those found at Lifeline.
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