Last week I wrote about focusing on the best possible outcome – how we can clear our mind to make room for visualizing the best possible outcome for the day, for the week, and anytime in the future. While it’s important that we look forward and make goals for the future, to help reduce anxiety it’s important that we focus on the beauty of now, what’s happening in our life right now that we realistically have control over, and all that we have in the present that is good, and what we can be grateful for. This week I wanted to continue on with my theme of ‘best possible outcome’ and further detail how you visualize and keep hold of positive thinking while feeling anxious, but two concerning news reports came up in my Facebook feed this week that I feel need immediate attention…
March 17, 2020 Debra Dale shared on Facebook about her 16 year old grandson who fell victim to ‘one of those internet trends’ that youth get caught up in that either lands them sick or dead. Remember the tide pod challenge? Cinnamon challenge? Unfortunately, her grandson was pressured into trying the latest ‘choke challenge’. He was live chatting with “friends” from school on xbox who challenged him to do the hanging challenge, where you intentionally choke yourself until you pass out. Supposedly it gives a euphoria, but too many youth are losing their lives to this stupid social media challenge. The tragedy is not only that this young man lost his life, but that his “friends” never reached out for help, they just sat and watched him choke to death. It wasn’t until Microsoft was alerted to the live feed and what was happening that the authorities were notified, but it was too late.
“Parents, I cannot stress enough how vigilant you need to be with your children and social media. Even at 16, when you think they are old enough to know better, we still find them doing it! These are totally senseless deaths and CAN be prevented. Maybe not 100%, but parents CAN make an impact. PLEASE, as parents, please pay more attention to what your kids are doing online. I dont want anyone to have go through the pain that my family is dealing with right now from losing our precious boy! I never dreamed I would be burying a grandchild, but this stuff happens….way to often it seems.”Debra Dale
The second tragedy I read about was on May 1st, 2020, Brad Hunstable recorded a video titled “My Son Died of Covid-19, But not in the way you think“. He illustrated what a happy kid his 11 year old son, Hayden, was. He loved to play games, just like he did. He loved socializing with his friends, but due to the restrictions of ‘stay at home’ and not being able to go to school, he noticed that his son was struggling emotionally. Still, he was happy to play his games, he would earn a new monitor for his gaming, but he would get unusually emotional about losing games or anything he did wrong. In a fit of frustration he broke his monitor and became unusually upset over it. But they worked it out and arranged for ways he could earn the money to help pay for a new monitor.
There was one day where this father was busy with work appointments at home where he needed to be on a conference call for 30minutes. Prior to being on the call his son came up to him and gave him a really tight hug, and then returned back up to his room. Soon after he was finished with his call, his daughter, Hayden’s 9 year old sister came rushing downstairs to him and said “Hayden is hanging in his closet, I think he’s dead Dad!”. He rushed up to him but could not revive him. He tried tirelessly, until his arms ached, but after his neighbors came over to his house, after the paramedics arrived, there was nothing anyone could do to bring him back.
It appeared that Hayden had broke his monitor again, in a fit of frustration he likely regretted losing control emotionally, again. Instead of reaching out to his parents, who would have worked with him again to resolve that problem, this young boy instead impulsively reacted in a way that I’m sure he regretted – ending his life.
How do we as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, how can we prevent such tragedy’s from happening to our kids? That father who bravely shared his sons story, he was doing the best he knew how to raise his son to be happy and have all his dreams and desires fulfilled. The grandmother who bravely shared her grandsons story, she and her kids I’m sure were doing the best they knew how. Because realistically, no parent, grandparent, none of us can watch our children every minute of every day… so how can we be proactive in protecting our children – from themselves – from making impulsive life-threatening decisions that they will regret?
Here are my 5 suggestions on how to help our children be emotionally brave to reach out for help, and choose to keep on living – one more day…
- Nightly check-ins – build a habit of having private talk time every day. Open up a safe space for your child to share ANY feelings they may be having about the day. Keep it simple – but direct. Ask questions like, “how are you feeling about having to stay at home more?”, “did anything come up today that made you feel stressed, frustrated, or afraid?”, “How could we make tomorrow a better day?”
- Identify your own feelings in the moment – when you feel frustrated, sad, anxious, or any HONEST feelings, identify them in front of your children. To help our children understand their own tough-to-feel feelings, we need to model and identify those feelings for them; how they look like, sound like, and feel like… For example:
“Momma is feeling really nervous about going to the store, because of the news about the virus. When I get nervous, my body feels tight and it’s a little extra difficult to breathe because my heart races – see, feel my heart… you feel it racing? When I get nervous I try to visualize everything turning out OK, so will you practice with me on how everything will turn out the best way possible? After we do all the good things we know we should do right now, wash our hands, wear a mask in public when we’re around others, everything will be safe, and we’ll be OK.”
or “Dad got upset when he tripped over your toys, because he was afraid that he might fall on you. Sometimes we get frustrated and speak loudly when we’re afraid, because in our hearts we don’t want bad things to happen to those we love.”
- Save the punishments or criticism for later – If your child is losing their temper, or doing something wrong, it is vitally important that you save ‘the talk’ for later and not vocalize it in front of others. Pull them aside for a private dialog to explain why how they were behaving was wrong. The goal is helping your child feel safe opening up to you about their real feelings. If they fear embarrassment, or fear you will talk badly about them to others, they will be reluctant to approach you when their emotions take a dive into dangerous territory. They are more likely to open up to you if they feel you will provide them a safe space to talk. If your other children observe you taking their siblings to a private space to talk, they too will know that if they needed to talk to you about something they are nervous about opening up about, they know you will keep their feelings private, because they see you doing that for others.
- Know when it’s time for professional help – As much as we wish we could be enough for our children, sometimes the truth is that we don’t ‘speak their language’, but a professional can. Sometimes our children just can’t understand why they’re thinking the negative thoughts, or they don’t understand their own feelings. Trained professionals know how to help your child navigate their thinking, and untangle the confusing thoughts and feelings, and miracles can happen when your child finally understands their own thoughts and feelings. There are countless professionals ready and waiting to help talk to your child, and talk to you. With the current in-person restrictions due to the Covid-19, many therapists are offering private zoom sessions, or over the phone sessions for therapy and counseling. A weekly session with your child could prove to be a tremendous benefit that you’re likely to not regret. Keep in mind that not all therapists and counselors are made equal, keep at it until you find the right fit that you, and your child feel good about. If you need financial assistance, check with your insurance or even your church to see if they can provide some help.
- Remember, it’s NOT YOUR FAULT – The only thing that any of us can expect from ourselves is our best effort. You can only react and take action on what you understand. You have a good heart, and you love your child. Every day you are doing the best you know how, and reacting to what you understand. Forgive yourself daily, we have limited understanding – we all only know what we know – until we learn more! 🙂 Love yourself, because you need to model for your child what you wish they will do for themselves. Be the change you wish to see. If you wish they would love themselves, show them how that’s done! Forgive yourself, be patient with yourself, and LOVE yourself. Be the example you wish for your own child —start with YOU, and then help support them in their own best efforts.
Take it one day at a time. We can only hope and pray for the best. I’ll list below some helpful resources for therapy and further education. If you found this article helpful, and you feel it could help your friends and family, please feel free to share. 💚
These therapists I have personal experience with and know them to be very kind, open-minded, and understanding people:
Nadine Kennington Cooper, Sandy UT, specializes in NLP Therapy: (801) 205-0386
Laura Nielson Denke, Los Angeles CA, specializes in LMHC & LMFT Counseling: (206) 789-1011
Dr. Mark Chamberlain, Salt Lake City UT, specializes in addiction recovery: (801) 564-7566
There are countless other options available, one of which is Amen Clinics. Dr. Daniel Amen has several clinics worldwide. I’m currently taking a Mental Health course that he offers, and hope to be certified in the near future as a Mental Health Coach. He specializes in brain trauma, and focuses his practice on brain scans (physically looking at the part of the body that is in need of treatment, and thus getting a more accurate and proof of diagnosis). Visit his website to learn more about what services his clinic provides that might help you or your loved one: https://www.amenclinics.com/
You might do a Google search for local therapists, some even specialize in child psychology, so when the social-distancing restrictions are finally lifted you can meet in-person, which is always best. But please don’t wait to reach out for that time, the best time to begin treatment is now. 💚
Signs Your Child May Be Depressed
Below are some links to helpful resources to get started in better understanding the signs and symptoms of a child, or teenager who may be struggling knowingly, or unknowingly, with depression.
- Depression in Children – WebMD
- Recognizing Depression – KidsHealth
- Depression in Children – Cleveland Clinic
- An Overview of Childhood Depression – Very Well Mind
- Depression in Children and Teenagers – NHS
If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, or you may feel they, or you, might be a danger to yourself, please call 911 or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255…