6 Questions To Be Sure
According to the CDC,
“Beginning in April 2020, the proportion of children’s mental health–related ED (Emergency Department) visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24%. and 31%, respectively.”
When it comes to our children, we, as parents, want to support, encourage, love and guide them the best way we can. It is our nature to want to make everything alright for them. If we’re okay (or act okay), then they’ll be okay, too. We make lemonade from lemons, right? While this principle is applicable, it may not comfort a child or teen who is struggling. We spoke with John Trautwein, Founder of the Will to Live Foundation, about what we can do to make sure our kids are talking to us, and that they are really okay.
COVID has definitely played a role in stress and anxiety of our kids. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 56% of young adults (ages 18-24) report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder…more than HALF! “Our kids are dealing with the loss of a year or more of their lives. That equates to 25% of their high school/college experience”, John says. Keep in mind that a year is a lot longer to someone who has only been alive for 15-20 years, as opposed to their parents or grandparents. “Our kids need to hear that it’s okay NOT to be okay.” It’s important for parents to recognize and appreciate that kids have suffered socially,academically, physically and mentally… no one’s fault, no judgement, just a culture of understanding and openness. Need some ideas? John offers us questions to use to open a dialogue.
1. "NEVER ask them, ‘how was your day?’
Be more specific. They don't want to talk about their day. If your kids are like mine, you will get one syllable grunts as a response”, he says. Yep.
2. Anything funny happen today?
3. Anything annoy you or make you mad today?
Listen to the answer and then follow up with, how did that make you feel?
4. I read an article today on the pandemic and its dramatic effect on stress and anxiety. How are your friends doing?
John states that it is always easier to talk about others and that can open the door to talk about themselves.
5. This is really brutal, isn't it? I never had to do this. I'm impressed with how you're doing this.
Let them know you understand how hard it is rather than ‘Yeah, that happened to me and I turned out fine’ or ‘Don't worry it will pass’.
6. Finally, we should never ever be afraid to ask, 'Are you ok? Are you thinking of hurting yourself? Do you have any suicidal thoughts? 1 in 10 do.’
John relates that by asking these important questions, you are showing your child that you understand that self-harming thoughts are not rare and are okay to talk about. You are recognizing the world we are all in.
John, a successful businessman, speaker, husband, father and former MLB player, points out that silver linings can come from tragedy, and he is living proof. His son, Will, completed suicide in 2010 and he and his family have worked tirelessly to bring awareness and dialogue to this difficult topic through the WILL TO LIVE FOUNDATION. During tough times, he shares a baseball analogy that there may not be a lot of home runs or big things to celebrate. So, we have to learn to celebrate the singles. Rejoice in the little things. Bringing attention to little steps and small gains can change focus to the positive, while recognizing what is occurring, or has occurred.
We are all still learning to be more mindful of how circumstances can affect different people in different ways. Start with these questions to open the lines of communication and create a culture of understanding. Who knows what you might learn!
Never be afraid to say, “Love ya, man”! Find out more about the WILL TO LIVE FOUNDATION and resources for help by clicking the link below.
By: Tracie Morse
North Atlanta FitLife