What do you do when you are told something about your child that scares you?
What do you do when you start to suspect they are doing something against your rules, against the law, or they are doing something dangerous like cutting or they may be suicidal?
How do you bring it up?
I get these kind of questions most every week through texts, facebook messages, and phone calls. Parents find something terrifying, and they don’t know how to even start the conversation, let alone what to say.
A friend texted me one morning terrified.
“We just discovered a trash can full of spit-out medication. We’ve been watching our daughter so carefully since her suicide attempt, I thought she was taking her meds daily, but she’s tricked us. I don’t even know what to say or how to approach her.”
My advice: Make the problem your own. Show them the pickle you’re in. I have had thousands of “awkward topic” conversations. In fact it is exactly what I am paid and trained to do over and over and over again each day. The best way I have found to discuss difficult topics is to tell the other person your own dilemma. “Son, I don’t know what to do or think, and I don’t want to make things worse, but I am freaking out inside because I care about you. I can’t stop caring about you, and I’m lost as to how to help.”
In my friend’s case, that’s saying something like – “In my parent mind the medication helped. Six months ago I thought I was going to lose you to suicide, now for two months you’ve looked happy, so my own mind thinks the medications are saving your life. But now, while you are looking good, I find your meds spit-out in the trash. I don’t know what to think or do.
I don’t know if I should be happy because you are doing awesome without meds, or ask you to take them, or if I take you to the doctor, or if I ignore the spit out pills and just act like it didn’t happen? It’s not the pills I care about, it’s you. I have to know you’re okay, or if you’re not, that I can help you without doing something you hate. What should I do?”
CONVERSATION KEY: You make the dilemma your own. Ask the person you are worried about to help you.