They say death or bad news comes in threes. Lately I’ve been inclined to believe this, as there have been too many untoward incidents occurring in the country. Sometimes I wonder if there has always been this much violence and death around us—or has respect for life and humanity reached a new record low?
Perhaps we were simply unaware before, since media was not as pervasive as it is today and social media was not around yet. I would like to think that, as civilization progresses, we become more enlightened, decent and better human beings; but each time I read or hear about an incident that is contrary to this in the news, I worry for the children we are raising today.
Recently the subject of suicide was all over the news. Despite not knowing any of the victims personally, I was deeply affected by the things I heard and read online. I suppose most people can’t help but feel a sense of regret over the loss of lives so full of promise. A young person’s death goes against the cycle of life and brings us much sorrow because it is a life that has not yet been lived. And when the death is reported to be caused by their own hand, it is even more disturbing.
A parent’s fears
As a parent, the news of a youth suicide always frightens me. It feels like a threat that can happen to anyone. Parents of the suicide case always seem to be blindsided and shocked that their child could take his/her own life.
Who would think or even dare imagine that such misfortune could befall the child’s family? But who is to say what goes through the mind of a child when an illness is left unnoticed and untreated, or when a child who is pushed against the wall fears that he/she is about to go over the edge?
It is said that the pressures of growing up in contemporary society are far more intense than what we or those before us experienced. To a certain extent, I can imagine this must be true.
When I was a teenager, only my parents had mobile phones that looked like walkie-talkies. I couldn’t make any calls or keep any secrets because all communication had to pass through them. There was no social media to document every irrational decision we made.
The mistakes we committed were discussed only by the few who witnessed them. Memories fade and stories about those mistakes become nothing more than vague recollections, if they are remembered at all.
Then there is the pressure to succeed. While I recall being very aware of the importance of a good education and taking it seriously enough, my nieces tell me stories of stress-related incidents due to academics, as early as the elementary years.
Add to this the pressure of being bullied in real life and online, fitting in and resisting the pressure to succumb to sex and drugs—and the picture is downright terrifying.
If this is the case, how do we parents prepare our children for this “pressure” that we don’t know or have no experience with?
This seems to be the question in the minds of the mothers I have been with these last few days. Do we toughen our approach to parenting in order to prepare our kids for the harsh realities that their generation will face? Should we be pushing them harder to strengthen them, or will that simply make the pressure worse? How do we prevent ourselves from falling into the trap of sugarcoating everything and overprotecting our children?
On the other hand, should we release our children from parental pressure and allow them to deal with life on their own terms? Will the pressure outside seem less intimidating to children if there is no pressure at home? Or will this cause them to crack at the first sign of trouble?
Talk to your children
It’s easy to say that a happy medium is the solution—everything in moderation. Unfortunately we still hear stories in which children were raised in perfectly happy homes with just the right balance between pressure and support, and yet the parents end up losing a precious child. How I wish there was a manual for every parent, so that suicide would be a thing of the past!
One thing everyone seems to agree on is taking this as an opportunity to talk to our children. Take time to start a dialogue in which children are free to ask questions, without fear of judgment or repercussions. Whether it be in depth—if they are old enough to understand what happened, especially if they knew the person involved—or a more simple, age-appropriate type of discussion, parents need to reach out to their children and let them know that they are never alone. Certainly this is not a magic solution, but it is a good start.
One mother I know raised the apprehension that, by discussing such things with her children, she might be doing more harm than good.
However, as we all know, the kids of today are no fools. They know more than we realize; and if they are to learn of things such as suicide, it would be better if they learn it from us.
At least, we can teach them facts rather than myths, and in a sober, secure environment, rather than at a time when emotions are running high, or from a source which may glamorize it.
However, it is important to note that discussions are in no way an alternative for professional help or medication. Parents are advised to immediately seek professional help if they see signs or feel that their child may need it.
Will families ever be free from the threat of suicide? It is hard to tell. It has been around since ancient history and current global statistics are not on our side. But little by little, I pray that we be able to defeat suicide and free parents from the pain of having to deal with such a tragedy.