When your tween or teen directly expresses the thought or desire to harm them self or commit suicide, of course, it is alarming. It may seem to come out of the blue or be part of growing distress they are experiencing. Either way, when you become aware that your child or teen talks about self-harm or suicide, it is important to take some steps to ensure their safety.
If your child is a tween or a teen take it seriously. If they are younger, certainly don’t dismiss these big feelings however I’ll cover some different steps in another blog post.
How to approach talking
Understandably you may want to minimize their distressing words and help them gain perspective by telling them the situation isn’t so bad. However, instead, manage your own feelings at that moment so you don’t take over the conversation. Press “pause” on your judgment. Your job is to be present, curious and compassionate.
Do they have a plan?
Once your child has shared what they can of their distress. Ask them if they have a plan to act on their suicidal thoughts. Listen very carefully here. A child who is planning on acting will often have quite a detailed story with potential time and place. They will have most likely been running through the scenario in their head for a while so will have worked out the details. For others, they may not have let their thoughts drift over to the action piece but are still caught up in just wanting to be gone.
Can they keep themselves safe?
Ask your child if they feel they can keep themselves safe in the moment? Start to investigate what they need from themselves and from you to help keep themselves safe. Perhaps even make a list of things that will help remind them of what they need to feel safe. Help them minimize triggers to their emotional upset for at least the moment.
Based on the conversation, let them know what you are going to do to help them stay safe. Again, manage your emotions as you may feel punitive towards them as they are causing you so much distress. You are definitively the parent taking the lead in this moment however this must be a non-shaming, collaborative conversation. Let them know that you are going to make sure they are not alone for the next while and brainstorm the options. Remove objects from their easy access that may trigger them to harm themselves.
Talk about self-care. This is a moment to be a strong parent. Get the basics back in line with proper sleep, eating and physically active routines in place. Brainstorm relaxation activities. This could include some distractions like music or screens but make sure there is a broader variety such as journaling, a meditation app, drawing, snuggling the family pet and engaging with safe friends.
When to visit the hospital
If during this conversation it becomes apparent your child won’t work to keep themselves safe, it is time to decide if a visit to the hospital is prudent. You can also suggest a crisis line or even another safe adult to your child if they aren’t feeling very comfortable sharing all of this with you.
It is very easy for teens to be overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions. The struggle to fit in socially, succeed academically, please peers, parents and other adults is quite difficult. The added pressure of fitting in the world with the watchful eye of social media has amplified these pressures.
Teen counseling can support their ability to manage the big emotions and learn skills for navigating all the social, academic and family pressures. Suggesting the idea of getting a counselor they can talk to and trust is also an important support strategy.
by Leah Koenig MA, LMHC. Leah is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Family Therapist, and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. Leah specializes in working with children, teens, and parents on creating their best self and best family relationships.
Contact Leah at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue Washington.Lear More
It might be stereotypical to suggest that women push for intimacy and men push for sex. Yet, there is some truth behind this. In romantic relationships, there is a pull and push dance that happens between intimacy and sex. To understand how this plays out in a relationship, let’s first let’s define what intimacy is.
Intimacy is . . .
- Emotional – sharing thoughts and feelings (aka vulnerability) and receiving empathy
- Physical – reaching for the other for closeness and reassurance, not to initiate sex
- Sexual – Yes, that means actual sex (as defined by each partner)
Men and Women Define Intimacy Differently
While I’m referring to the stereotypical male/female roles here, note that any gender could play either role. However, for the most part, women want and need an emotional connection with their partner to feel loved and secure. When they feel emotionally connected and safe enough, they will want physical closeness. When all that’s flowing, sex is a natural progression because of a desire for an even deeper closeness.
Men? Well, most men struggle to talk about their feelings. Hugs, hand holding, snuggles, and cuddles aren’t always easy to ask for or comfortable to do. Yet, men know how to ask for sex! When a man receives sex from their partner, they get a huge whopping dose of acceptance. Ah, good. This means everything is okay! Right? No. Herein lies the problem.
The Cycle of Neglect and Rejection
If she doesn’t feel emotionally connected, she will rebuff the man’s attempts to initiate sex. Why? She does not want to communicate that everything is okay! She’ll reject the kiss, avoid closeness, and be emotionally prickly – all attempting to communicate that everything is not okay. Most men do not cultivate the emotional safety and connection that women need in order to either want sex or want to give sex to them.
What happens next? The man feels rejected, pulls away and doesn’t cultivate emotional connection (and thus emotional safety). She feels ignored or abandoned and therefore hurt. Then when his libido builds and he attempts to initiate sex again, because he has been distant instead of focusing on connection, guess what happens? He’ll get rejected again! She’ll then trust his efforts to connect less and less.
This neglect and reject pattern quickly creates resentment in each partner and needs addressing.
How to Solve the Sex vs. Intimacy Puzzle
If sex is a problem in your relationship, start working to ensure the emotional connection is secure. Learn to share your thoughts and feelings. Learn to be an empathetic listener – empathy is the ‘magic lube’ of relationships! Be a kind and attentive partner. Be a devoted partner. This may not fix everything and it won’t be a fast fix. However, I’m sure if you do this, you’ll be in a far better place to work on the physical closeness and sex in your relationship.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance. Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Lear More
Resentment is a highly toxic poison that will kill your relationship if you don’t find a way to release it. When you feel unfairly treated, you’ll become angry. When anger is mixed with a sense of betrayal, you’ll feel resentment.
How Resentment Builds
It’s easy to understand how resentment can occur in a relationship after an event like infidelity. Resentment can also grow over time when your partner is unresponsive to you. Being rejected over and over, ignored over and over, or criticized over and over – these actions break the trust you thought you had. They key trust in any relationship is: you won’t hurt me on purpose. You’ll have my back.
If you’re feeling resentful, you’re also hurt, angry and don’t trust your partner. Your brain will start working to solve the problem because it doesn’t want you to be alone. Unfortunately, no choice seems to lead to happiness. A part of you may want to leave the relationship because I don’t deserve to be treated this way and I can do better. Another part probably wants to kick them out so they will feel the hurt too. There’s likely a part of you probably doesn’t want to leave because of the commitment you made. Still, yet another part of you doesn’t want to act in a way that is retaliatory because that’s not who you are. You’re hurt and you’re stuck!
The Best Way to Release Resentment
The best way through resentment is to be able to express your hurt and upset-ness with your partner. This means they must be able to listen, be empathetic, own their part, feel bad for that part and hurt they contributed to (or caused) and make a commitment to change that will put the rules of love and security back in place. If they can do this, you’ll start to believe they care about how you feel. When you feel understood, when they can own their part, you can start to believe they won’t hurt you again.
This is a tricky part because if when you express your true thoughts and feelings they become defensive, dismissive, blaming or move into their own guilt and shame, you won’t leave the conversation feeling understood and therefore better. The ability to put one’s own feelings aside to be compassionate with the other and take ownership for one’s contribution are key attributes of a strong relationship. You’ll think, if they don’t understand, they might hurt me again. You won’t be able to let the resentment go.
If Your Partner Won’t Understand, What Can You Do?
If you must deal with it alone because your partner can’t or won’t be compassionate, one way to work on resentment is by setting boundaries. You may need to make changes to the rules of your relationship or even make structural changes to your routine. You’ll need to figure out what you need to feel better and then go to your partner and let them know what you need to be okay again. Perhaps you need to take over all the finances, or perhaps you need a night out for “me” time. Whatever it is, what do you need to put trust and fairness back in place? Then with follow through comes trust, one bite at a time.
You Can Choose
Another way to work through resentment on your own is through brute force. Choose to take your power back by choosing to own your choice. When you accept a situation because you choose to in some way, you can feel better about the situation because you’re not powerless.
Make a decision by finishing the sentence, “I choose to _______________. “ “I choose to stay in this relationship because I love my partner and want to make it work.” Now you are making an empowered choice. Own that choice and don’t blame your partner for your own choices.
Resentment has the toxic potential to unwind your relationship because it blocks partners from moving toward each other to repair deep hurts. Many couples who come into counseling find they waited too long. Don’t let this be you! If you or your partner is resentful and can’t work through it together or alone, find a good counselor to help.
Working through this can be hard, and it is critical to your relationship’s long-term health, happiness and security.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance.
Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Lear More