Have the talk.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year it’s the importance of having the talk with your kid.  Not the sex talk, although that one is important too.

The talk that says things will be hard but that you will be there with them no matter what.  The talk that says here is what to do when you feel desperate, or suicidal, or confused or hurt or alone or broken.  Here is what you do when you are afraid.

Having a talk with your kids about sex doesn’t make them have sex.  Having a talk about llamas doesn’t make them llamas.  Having a talk with your kids about suicide won’t make them suicidal.  Having a talk with your kids about mental illness doesn’t give them mental illness.  It does, however, give them tools to help recognize things that might otherwise confuse or terrify them.  It may help them to recognize things in themselves or in their friends.  And that can save a life.

They may not understand your talk.  They may think it’s pointless or even silly.  They may not even remember all of the details if they never deal with these sorts of struggles.  But they will remember that you are there to listen and that you are there to help and that there is nothing that they can’t get through.  That a lot of the problems that seem  massive when you’re a kid or teenager will be forgotten at 21.  That it’s okay to fail.  That it’s okay to vent and cry.  That it’s okay to ask for help…even more importantly…that it’s their duty to ask for help.

This isn’t easy.  It’s not easy for parents.  It’s not easy for kids.  But it’s needed.  So to make it a little easier I’m going to share a few things that I’m learning as a parent.  I also asked for an expert opinion on talking with teens and that expert is my teen who gave me great feedback on things that helped her during any struggles she’s had in life.

What is something that you wish you’d told your kids when they were younger…the thing that maybe you learned the hard way or that made a big difference?  

me: I wish I’d asked ‘How are you really?’ and repeated it a few times to get past the basic ‘Great’ and into the real details of what’s going on in her head.  I wish I’d explained that just because someone’s struggle doesn’t look like mine it doesn’t mean that their struggle isn’t just as real and just as hard.

What’s the thing you wish that you were asked?

Hailey: I wanted someone to ask “What do you need?”  Not just “Are you okay?” or “How was your day?” but “What do you actually need from me that I’m not doing?”

What do you want to hear?

Hailey:  Not “You’re fine.  Don’t worry.”   Because when you don’t feel fine and everyone keeps saying that you are you feel even worse.  I wish someone would have told me that it was okay to not be fine sometimes.  I want to hear that there are ways to fix it.

What advice would you give parents about talking to their kids?

Hailey:  Maybe ask the school counselor how your kid is.  They see them at school and might know a lot more about what’s going on that they aren’t sharing.  Make sure your kids aren’t just talking to you about their problems because it’s really helpful to vent to people who aren’t your parents.

What would you tell kids who are struggling right now?

Hailey: Talk to someone.  Find someone to listen.  You can even practice on your stuffed animals if you have to until you find the right words.

me:  Don’t give up.

******

Your turn.  Talk to your kids.  Ask them what they need to hear.  Share what you’ve learned here if you think it could help someone else.  Parenting is terrifying and we are constantly fucking up.  What is perfect for one kid is not for another.  We bumble through and try to make the right decisions and fail and succeed and hide and celebrate and do wonderful and terrible things…just like the kids we are raising.  But we don’t have to do it alone.

You are not alone.

*****

PS. This is a very serious post and I don’t like serious so I’m leaving you with this:

via GIPHY

210 replies. read them below or add one

  1. I agree with you Jenny. I really do believe that speaking about suicide doesn’t cause suicidal ideation and it may help. This is a really important message for parents and kids, especially with suicide being so prevalent and in the news all the time. When I was a kid, it was never discussed and hushed. It needs to be talked about more.

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  2. 2
    Tucker Almengor

    Thank you for this post, Jenny. I wish I had talked with my parents or vise about suicide. Unfortunately, it took many attempts and self harm for me to finally tell them. Sending good vibes to you and your family 💓

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you Jenny, and as always you and Hailey are exceptional people for making me think in ways I wouldn’t normally think of. Open communication for our kids is always helpful, to make them feel like there is someone there to listen and maybe even help or suggest ways to get help. As for that video, that is priceless! Sending you and Hailey tons of love!!

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  4. What do you want to hear?

    Hailey: Not “You’re fine. Don’t worry.” Because when you don’t feel fine and everyone keeps saying that you are you feel even worse. I wish someone would have told me that it was okay to not be fine sometimes. I want to hear that there are ways to fix it.

    Preach, Hailey, preach! I’ve heard this so often in my life (including most of last week) when I was NOT fine. It makes me want to kick people.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. ❤💛💜💚💙

    Like

  6. When I grew up, it was never okay to discuss suicidal thoughts or depression. I’m hopeful that more parents are becoming aware of how important it is to really hear their kids. Your experience and openness about this subject is a huge step in the right direction. Thanks for that.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. You are wonderful. Thank you for helping so many people.

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  8. Such an important thing to do. I check in with my son all the time–you never know what they’re going through, and keeping the conversation open is absolutely necessary. I want him to always know we can talk honestly about feelings and that if he needs help, I’m here for him.

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    mydangblog recently posted My Week 230: Gaffes and Guffaws.

  9. Awesome.

    Like

  10. I wish someone had told me that I would be loved and cared for even when I wasn’t okay.

    Thank you for this post, Jenny and Hailey. I am glad to have you in my life via this blog.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. What do I want to hear? I agree with Hailey about it’s okay to not be fine. You are not a failure because you aren’t fine. More then that, sometimes you aren’t going to be fine for awhile, and that’s okay too. I used to have it in my head that because I was going to therapy I was supposed to be all fixed. Because I talked to a doctor and changed my medication I was supposed to be totally fine. It’s been weeks since I started doing this stuff, why am I not better yet? It made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasn’t doing what I should, and everyone was going to see that and get mad at me for not trying harder (even though I was doing the best I could!). Sometimes the most comforting thing is to know that it’s not your fault you haven’t been ‘fixed’ yet, and it’s important to give things time.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. We have a safe word in place with my son. If he is ever feeling suicidal he just needs to text that and I will come running. I am also in weekly contact with his therapist and guidance counselor so that we are all on the same page. However, I don’t think I’ve asked about his needs. Thank you Hailey and Jenny. I will definitely add this!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you for encouraging this-open, authentic, honest conversation about all the hard shit life dishes out are how our kids learn we are trustworthy. Well done mom and well done hailey!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. It’s so important. Thank you for sharing this, I know it can’t be easy by any means.

    I don’t have kids myself, but I really struggled with anxiety and depression as a child, and I wish someone had recognized it and talked to me about it. It drives me crazy when someone says, “Kids are resilient!” because it just makes the opposite of sense. Kids aren’t resilient at all, they just don’t know how to express those kinds of complex emotions, so they just don’t talk about it and suffer in silence. Thank you for encouraging parents to reach out!

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    romcomdojo recently posted I Would Rather Wear Cheese Than Go To Your Scentsy Party.

  15. You sound like an awesome mom, and I wish someone had had this talk with me when I was a kid.

    PSA for everybody: don’t accept “fine” as a “how are you” answer from anybody. They’re just telling you that because they think that’s all you want to hear. If you want to hear more, follow up the “fine” by asking for more. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Don’t say, “things all work out for the best”, or “you look fine”, or “you have a great life”. Best to say, “talk to me, I’ll listen.” And then really listen. Not just at what they are saying, but what they are not saying, too.

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  17. This is fantastic advice, and I’d say not just for talking to your kids. It’s actually pretty great advice to just talking to other people you’re close to: friends, spouses, family, etc. Hailey’s advice to ask “What do you need” is fanfreakingtastic!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. What I wish i hadn’t heard: “There are so many other people worse off than you.” It made me feel like my issues weren’t that big of a deal and that I should just be grateful it wasn’t “as bad”. I lived my whole life with that response as my default until I started seeing my therapist and she explained how unhelpful that is. It doesn’t matter who or what is in a better place or time. Pain is pain. Now I don’t feel “less than” all the time.

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  19. I think all this works for adults too… At least I feel better being reminded it’s ok to fail!

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  20. Wonderful advice. I have struggled at times so when I saw my son struggling I recognized it and talked to him. Thankfully, he heard me. Thanks, Jenny.

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    Mrs. Completely recently posted The Vikings Are Coming!.

  21. Jenny and Hailey are a dynamic duo, deserving of super-hero capes and tights. Thank you both for taking time to reach out and remind us to be aware. Practice reflective listening to make sure we understand what someone else is saying (or not saying).

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Love and strength to you both.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. My baby turned 9 today and rung in her birthday by crying on me about how every year she’s older means that her family and cat is older and eventually someone is going to die. She is a kid of Big Feelings and we always cuddle and cry and talk our way through them but dear God Almighty I had no words of comfort because she’s right. I’d love some Hailey advice on this. She’s good at masking her feelings but is very comfortable (right now!) letting me know, but o can only imagine how that will change in the years ahead.
    Ain’t none of us fine. But we can be broken together.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. In my day (yes, I’m actually using that line) the sex talk was the most important talk a parent could have with their kid.
    How times have changed.
    And not for the better.
    Still, I applaud your courage and wisdom, Jenny, as always.

    Like

  25. Thanks for the specifics here — that’s so helpful. I know experts always say that if you talk about suicide it doesn’t put the idea in someone’s head but I’ve never fully grasped that. You made me feel a little bit ridiculous with the “talking about llamas doesn’t make them llamas” but that’s an excellent point!

    I’m going to believe Hailey and talk to the school counselors but whoo, I don’t have much faith in ours…. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  26. What do you need?
    I like that. And I will remember to use it.
    And until this moment I didn’t know that what I needed was a raccoon taking a shower in a kiddie pool.
    It’s perfect. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    OwnLessDoMore recently posted None of the above: a sojourner meanders through the 2020 Census.

  27. Oh, Jenny 💙

    What a hard topic to talk about and thank you so much for always being open and honest about it and so many other supposedly taboo subjects.

    As a suicidal teen I’d have given anything to have heard that is okay to feel like I’m being crushed by everything, that nothing permanent has been done to my life yet, and that “we” can get though this. For me, there was no “we” so I never heard that and I am still baffled to this day as to how I’m still alive.

    Later, having lost someone dear to suicide, I earned a completely new perspective and it still hurts, over 20 years later. (Story in link)

    Liked by 4 people

  28. Thank you for the reminder, and thank Hailey from us for her insight.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Thank you for this post, Jenny and to Hailey for her wisdom. My 19 year old niece went through a very difficult period several years ago and attempted suicide. One of the things she shared with me is that, as a minor, she was afraid to tell anyone that she had suicidal thoughts because they would have to report that to her parents and she didn’t want them to freak out. As a parent, I totally get the “freak out” part but then there are all these thoughts she was ashamed of and couldn’t express. I’m not quite sure what the answer is but I do think open conversation is good and you and Hailey are helping with that. Love & hugs to your family.

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  30. You are correct, Jenny.

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  31. Tucked this away in my heart to say to my grandchildren. When my son was 13, Chris, a 20-something kid we all knew committed suicide. A senior at an Ivy League School, great parents and siblings, tight-knit church and community, everything going for him. I told my son then, “whatever it takes, we’ll fix it, I promise you.. Don’t do this to yourself” or words to that effect. To this day, I feel the heartbreak that swept through our group. I think your post opened a lot of minds today. Thank you so much.

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  32. Thank you for this. I’m trying to figure out all this as I parent my 11 year old. I feel a bit adrift, as I didn’t get what I needed growing up. This is REALLY helpful

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  33. And talk to them again and again, because sometimes as they get older they need to be reminded.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. This is a Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it. I wish my mother had this talk with me so I felt safe talking to her. Instead, at a time when I was suicidal and was reaching out to her, her response was to angrily tell me I was stupid. There are so many gifts we can give our kids but I feel like the biggest is loving support.

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  35. Thank you for being. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for dancing raccoons.

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  36. Had this with my daughter over the last 12 months, she’s the same age as Hailey. I thought I’d had the talk, but depression lies, she didn’t think she was sick, she thought she was a horrific POS. A LOT of therapy and a couple of hospitalizations later, she’s got a good team and good meds. Been stable 4 months, and I’m so grateful. I hope you and Victor have support too. Thinking of you all.

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  37. THANK YOU!!! small caveat… this conversation needs to occur with anyone & everyone… not just kids. Everyone that means anything to you and with YOURSELF! though, maybe not out loud to yourself, but you’re your own expert.

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  38. From one mom to another, I hear you and I see you ❤️ We have been struggling here, and are (hopefully) now coming out the other end. Much love to you all.

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    Screaming Into the Void recently posted We’re Doing Okay.

  39. I appreciate your candor and honesty Jenny! Parenting is very hard and seems harder when they are “adulting”.

    I have three daughters and they are very different. What has worked for one has not worked on the next. I have found that keeping an open dialogue has been invaluable. We have also found that a third party perspective (therapist) has been most helpful. Chemical imbalance also runs in the family so I have always been very up front with feelings and what stress can do mentally to a person.

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  40. You and Hailey are both amazing (I’m sure Victor is too, but he’s not in this post so he doesn’t get to steal your thunder), the way you approached this post is going to be so helpful to so many and I’m sure it’s already helping. Thank you so much for this reminder about the importance of having these talks with our kids, mine are still pretty little but I’m going to try to establish openness now.

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  41. Had this with my daughter over the last 12 months, she’s the same age as Hailey. I thought I’d had the talk, but depression lies, she didn’t think she was sick, she thought she was a horrific POS. A LOT of therapy and a couple of hospitalizations later, she’s got a good team and good meds. Been stable 4 months, and I’m so grateful. I hope you and Victor have support too. Thinking of you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. I’d like to add that invalidating someone’s feelings never helps; telling a person “you’re over-reacting”, “you’re just feeling sorry for yourself”, “quit pouting” or my dad’s favorite “quit being a wimp”, do NOTHING to help someone struggling emotionally.

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  43. 44
    David Pollard

    Really disappointed about the fact that talking to them about llamas doesn’t turn them into one. I’ve been waiting in vain for 25 years. (sigh)

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  44. both of you made me cry. most days i feel like such a shitty parent because my 14 yo just will not talk to me. going to try asking some things besides “how was your day”, and “how are you”.. both of which get one word responses if i’m lucky. thank you for the encouragement. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  45. I needed this in the worst way today. It was the first time I saw the marks on her arm…learned the depth of my baby’s suffering. It’s also the first time in a long time where I’ve felt like I’m drowning doing this whole parenting thing…where I don’t have the answer. Thank you for seeing us, for reminding us that we’re not alome.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. 47
    Shannon Fogle

    My 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety disorder a few years ago and before we got that diagnosis, she would tell me, “you don’t know what it feels like inside my head.” And she’s right, I don’t. At this point, we manage, but I really have to stay alert to her feelings. Jenny, I appreciate your posts so much. Thank you.

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  47. I think my concern is a bit opposite – my kids have had to watch me struggle so hard to keep going, and it’s been rough on them. I do my best to hide it or show them what I’m doing to try to get better, but it’s definitely left a mark on them that I can never take back. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  48. 49
    Karyn Doherty

    My 11 year old daughter is very depressed and anxious. Last year she told me she had had thoughts about not wanting to live. We’re in counseling, I’m letting her know about my lifelong struggles with depression a bit, but it’s so hard when she believes she won’t ever feel better. So we keep taking. :/

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  49. Thank you for the reminder.

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  50. Another thing to ask, especially if you have a venting teenager on your hands, is “Is this a ‘that sucks’ conversation or an ‘I need advice’ conversation?”

    Sometimes kids come to parents for help with problem solving, but sometimes they just want to vent and get the emotions out there. Same is true with adults.

    Liked by 1 person

  51. 52
    Margot Williams

    I’m childless, but I’m passing this on to a friend who is considering fostering.

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  52. This is such an important talk. I wish someone had talked to me. Maybe I wouldn’t have been filled with such shame and rage about about how I felt. Maybe i wouldn’t have had 2 suicide attempts under my belt by age 14. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone through 25 years of self harm. Maybe. When I look back, even though I know they loved me, I realize how terrible my parents were at parenting.

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  53. Also, thank you for posting this. I just finished an eight hour training on Youth Mental Health First Aid (https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/take-a-course/course-types/youth/) and we talked about a lot of what you cover. It’s good to have the reinforcement.

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  54. The one thing I wish someone would have told my younger self: (so that It wouldn’t have taken 34 years to get help) If you have ever asked yourself “How can they even help me when I don’t even know what’s wrong? That’s your key that something is amiss. Even if you don’t know what, or why, or how, make that call. Set up an appointment. A therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist’s ENTIRE job is to help you put together all of those puzzle pieces you’re carrying around in order to figure out the best course of action to get you feeling better.

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  55. Talking to your kids can be really hard, especially if your kid is the type that doesn’t want to open up because that’s just the way he is. So I put my kid in therapy a couple of times when I could see he was having problems but he wouldn’t let me help him. Don’t feel like you are a failure as a parent if your kid needs therapy. Sometimes the parent just isn’t the right person for the kid to talk to about some things. And that’s okay, as long as you find them SOMEONE to talk to. But make sure the therapist is a good one. Get recommendations from school counselors, teachers, friends whose children have been in therapy. You might have a session with the therapist yourself before allowing them to treat your child, just to make sure you feel comfortable with him or her. Yeah, sometimes it hurts when your kid won’t talk to you when you can tell something is bothering him or her. But if you try every approach you can think of and nothing works, try therapy. At least you will know you’ve done everything you can to help your child.

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  56. Thank you for this very important information, Jenny. A school counselor saved my daughter’s life 5 years ago. 2014 to 2016 were the hardest years of my life. We had some great care and some terrible care along the way. One thing that I was able to do was to volunteer to take a course in Mental Health First Aid. It was this type of training that saved my daughter’s life.
    For more information, please visit https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org
    It will get better. When you come out from under the clouds that surround you, your life and the entire world will look different. And that’s a good thing. ❤️
    K

    Liked by 1 person

  57. I watched my dad sit with my son once. Just that. He didn’t ask my son anything, or say anything. He just sat beside him. Then my son leaned his head onto my Dad’s shoulder and talked. In that moment I knew what kind of mom I wanted to be, and that listening (and simply being there) is a true act of love. I’m not a perfect mom, but I love so very much.

    Liked by 2 people

  58. I wish I could have talk to my parents growing up. They were the problem. Here I am turning 50, almost a year into therapy trying to heal the damage. I’m doing okay. I have a great therapist.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Thank you, this helps reinforce things I’m doing right and gives me some things to work on.

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  60. I’ve been having this talk a lot with my daughter lately. It’s evolved past the facts of depression lies and the lies of depression is what led her brother to die from suicide. She’s experiencing clinical depression. It’s hell to watch your child struggle. The only gift my Bipolar and years of depression has given me is the fact that I can honestly tell her it does get better. It can get better. You don’t have to do it alone. I’m here. She sees a counselor. I’m never hesitant to shoot an email to the school counselor with a little update or note to communicate with me. I don’t expect all of the details, but I think that it’s important to get as many players on the team fighting depression that we can. I’ve been taught some coping skills, I have plenty more to figure out. I have absolutely no shame telling her that I don’t know all of the answers, it’s her fight to lead, but I’m here to slay all of the dragons I can and give her as many tools as she can. She was cutting for a bit. We decided that instead she will use sharpie. Use a notebook and pour out your feelings. Find your music….and as an adult it is important for her to see that I still struggle. I came home from work last night at the bottom of the barrel absolutely drained. She asked how my day was and got the finger. I said that’s how it went. But tonight I get to relax iny safe place with the people I love most and wake up tomorrow to give it another chance….and with that statement I got a fabulous high and let her see the tears slip down my cheeks. There’s no shame in fighting the war together. And while she’s entirely too old to tattle on anyone, she knows the importance of reporting it to an adult if there’s anyone else she sees struggling. She’s talked to a friend and convinced her to see the school counselor. Last week she emailed the school counselor when a “friend” posted a suicidal threat on social media. I told her I was proud of her bringing it to my attention. Of course we had no contact information and it was after school hours, but we know from past history the counselor is very responsive to emails at those hours, and it was addressed. I pointed out I’m sure she wouldn’t tell the other student (although he accused her, likely because she addressed his post with a long one of her own, Amen girly, but he let it slide as the counselor supposedly said a few people….It doesn’t matter. Depression lies. Depression makes people angry. Depression is not rational….but we don’t have to let it beat us! At the end of each day, even if depression wins one battle, we can always wake up and choose to fight it again!
    When she’s totally withdrawn and stuck in her head and I know she needs time to process, I ask “what kind of stick can I give you?” It’s from a FB post and is our gentle reminder that I know you need some help, but I have no idea what it is. Tell me what I can do or use me to figure it out. She also knows that when we talk about depression absolutely no words are off limits. We can laugh, cry, swear, and dance all at the same time. It brings us closer!

    Liked by 1 person

  61. 1) it’s ok to be angry or upset or sad or lonely or lost
    2) you only have to get thru today. Focus on getting thru today (telling someone that it’ll get better soon is fine but sometimes
    The weight of today seems overwhelming)
    3) you are not alone..if you cant talk to me talk to your auntie or grandad or counsellor of your best friends mom..someone will listen, and I won’t be mad or offended if I’m not the person you need to talk
    4) I love you. I love you wholey and unconditionally. They don’t always believe you but they need to hear it.
    5) I have told many people about how Depression Lies. And when someone is in the dark the voice of Depression is louder than anything else.
    6) I explained to my daughters that some days happiness and light comes in the tiniest of measures. I use this idea in my own mental health battles. Happiness can be a hot coffee, or a bird singing. Seek out the tiny cracks of light in the dark because some days that’s all you might find

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  62. I probably thought long and hard about suicide throughout my teen years. The talk certainly would have been helpful. Then my little brother killed himself with his service revolver and stole my thunder. He was two months away from turning 21.

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  63. The part about telling your kid they will be fine and asking what they need is so true!! My own expert who is no longer a teen has talked to me now about how bad things were for her in high school when all along she would say it was okay. 😳

    Liked by 1 person

  64. Talk to your kids about your OWN mental illness (if you are unlucky enough to have one.) If your teen has depression or anxiety, and you can’t bring yourself to even talk about your own experience with mental illness, it makes it seem like a dirty little secret. I was raised knowing I had a family history of mental illness and alcoholism, so when I got depressed in high school, my dad got me right in to therapy, like it was no big deal, no different than someone who had inherited their grandpa’s bad vision would get wisked off to the eye doctor for glasses. And when I went to college and started drinking, the knowledge of my family’s tendancy toward alcohol addiction made me extra careful when drinking. Honesty is KEY!

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  65. 66
    Lori McGee Lowery

    Mommas…please, please heed this advice. I didn’t have the talk often enough, and not about the right things. I didn’t know. And we ultimately lost the battle, and my heart is forever broken. (Sorry…It’s been a bad day)

    (I am wrapping you up in love and light. ` Jenny)

    Liked by 1 person

  66. It is eye opening to see so many with the same problems. Life is hard. We need help and support no matter how old we are. If someone doesn’t receive what they need from the first person they ask, ask someone else. Don’t give up.

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  67. I’m sitting here in tears because you are all such a wonderful group of caring people. Hailey, thanks so much for the,”What do you actually need from me that I’m not doing?” It may help me get through to someone who’s often,”Fine”.

    Liked by 1 person

  68. Not just talking with kids. This is invaluable for all ages talking with all ages. Many thinks for it!❤️

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  69. Not just talking with kids. This is invaluable for all ages talking with all ages. Many thinks for it!❤️

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  70. I made my kids load the suicide hotline to their phones/iPods as a condition of “ownership”. I asked them to know that there are adults ready to listen to them, to their friends, any time. Even if it’s not me.

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  71. One of the worst/best days of my life was when my son came to me and said “I need help”. It was a long LONG journey, but he’s doing much better now.

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  72. If it hadn’t been for a very attentive and caring high school guidance counselor, I probably wouldn’t have made it out. It takes a village to raise a child, and that isn’t any less true for those of us with mental illness, even when we’re no longer children. I still rely on my “village” when I get bad and would have never been able to have that if my counselor hadn’t noticed me. I wish you only the best, Hailey, and hope you are prepared for the worst. Life sucks sometimes but at least we can live it together

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  73. The most important thing my mother ever said to me was before I got married at 19 to a guy I had no idea they didn’t like.

    It was “You can always come home if you need to.”

    Three years later, after much emotional abuse from him, culminated in my suicidal ideations. My breaking point was after telling him what was in my head and his response to that being “Don’t leave me”. Instead of ANYTHING that sounded like his first thought was about MY well being. It wasn’t long after that I made the hardest call I ever had to make. To my mom. To ask if she really meant it when she said I could come back if I had to.

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  74. Thank you Jenny and thank you Hailey for being so open in sharing your thoughts for this post. It should be required reading for all parents and for all school employees. (I say that after a 30-year teaching career.) Much love to you both — OK, and to Victor too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  75. I wish all these convos (that I am imagining happening for kids in the future) would include intrusive thoughts. Most people may be more familiar with the as a symptom of post partum depression, but it’s a part of OCD/OPD as well. It’s one of the things that felt the most like losing my mind, and the most shameful to risk telling someone.

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  76. Just don’t sabotage everything they do. Don’t tell other people that they lie and steal. Don’t gaslight them. Don’t set them up to fail. Frankly, if you are doing motherhood without actively setting out to destroy your kids in covert ways, you qualify for mom of the year.

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  77. Thank you. I needed this, today more than ever. My child is struggling with mental illness, and I am struggling to keep from losing my own mind while trying to help him.

    Liked by 2 people

  78. ❤️ & 💔

    My ex-husband committed suicide and I try to find new ways to regularly ask my kids how they are. I have reverted to asking random off the wall questions (mostly to check if their teenage brains are even turned on), and I do ask them pretty often in our quiet times if there is anything else I can do to be a better mom. Sometimes I get helpful feedback, but mostly I just get their quiet love with a side of hug in return. Thanks for the additional questions and suggestions to add to my reptoire!

    Liked by 1 person

  79. Thanks for this. I don’t have kids but I think these questions and responses can even apply to friends and family.

    Liked by 1 person

  80. Good advice Jenny ❤

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  81. I always hated the dismissive “everybody feels like that.’ I still do.

    We have the talk all the time because I almost lost my teen son to suicide 9 months ago. We really thought he was better, and he was not. We learned of his well thought out plan about 48 hours before he acted on it, quite by accident. I believe in God, and He was definitely behind how it all came to light.

    Have the talk, yo.

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  82. 83
    Molly Bonovsky Anderson

    I’ve struggled with depression since I was 11 years old, and am terrified that my son has inherited it. I feel like I’m already seeing it, and he’s only 5.
    My depression was a source of shame in my family and was largely swept under the rug. I’ve vowed that I will never let that happen to my child.
    Thank you for the reminder, Jenny, and thank you, Hailey, for voicing that it’s important to be told that it’s OK to not be OK.

    Liked by 1 person

  83. I wish my parents had listened when I told them something was medically wrong with me. It took 29 years to discover mast cell reactions were causing me depression, anxiety, and psychosis. I remember every adult and friend that believed and supported me.

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  84. so much better in every way than standing around their coffin and asking how did this happen?

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  85. On my Facebook feed, your post was right after a post from a friend talking about her dad’s suicide.

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  86. 88
    Morticias Mom

    I wish someone had asked me when I was in grade school….instead, in those days they deemed you ‘not trying hard enough’ or not participating…duh…should have been a red flag but they just put you in the weirdos corner and all the other kids shunned you. Consequently Ive lived an anti social life since and finally found a doc who prescribed meds. Go figure…luckily times have changed.

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  87. Thank you both! 💜💜💜

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  88. Perfect. Thank you. And what do YOU need now?

    (Me? I need a drink and a hug. But for now I’ll settle for a snuggle with a fat kitty. ~ Jenny)

    Liked by 3 people

  89. Thank you for this post. One day my little baby boy will be a teenager and I want to be as supportive and present for him as I
    can be because that was not the case for me growing up. Mental illness is a raging beast in my family. It has already taken 2
    people and almost took my grandfather. I don’t ever want my son to feel alone or be afraid to talk about his feelings like I was. Love to you both. ❤️

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  90. This is what I have always told my kids, and it came in handy this year:

    We are instinctively wired for survival. You know the science of that. So remember that if your brain is ever telling you that it would be better not to survive, that is the sign of an unhealthy brain. Tell someone right away.

    I think that saved my son this year.

    Liked by 2 people

  91. Sending an abundance of love to you, Hailey, and Victor. I wish people hadn’t insisted I was “Fine” and just needed to “Get over” my problems. This is great advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  92. Thank you so much for writing this!

    My niece committed suicide eleven years ago. My three kids were in their early & mid-teens.

    In family grief counseling, I learned the questions you mentioned and the importance of listening and being available to them in ways that encouraged open conversations, and showed support and safety. Without that, I’m not sure I would have known to directly ask the questions that need to be talked about.

    You are doing such important work with your blog in this area. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

    Big hugs to you and your family. XXOO Natalie Franklin, a long time reader in Oklahoma City

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  93. Another great Jennyism. We love you.

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  94. It’s been a difficult tightrope. I have dealt with mental illness, and my kids know I have it, but I don’t share a whole lot with them because I don’t want to scare them. However, when I saw my daughter struggling at 8, we got her evaluated. And when she was 12, she hit a rough spot and was brave enough to come to me and tell me, “I thought about hurting myself.” Everything stopped in that moment. I took her into my lap, told her how proud I was of her to tell me, and said, “We will fix this. It will get better.” I circled the wagons with her teacher, counselor, primary care doctor and therapist. She worked so hard and make it through. And she now has more tools and experience and hope.

    Talking to your kids about mental health isn’t fucking up. Not talking, and more importantly, not listening, is fucking up.

    Thanks so much for sharing this. Many need this. Hugs ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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  95. Love you, Jenny! I want my kids (I want EVERY kid) to know that someone is in their corner. If that person can’t be me (but I really hope it is), that person is out there waiting to help. I want them to know that making mistakes is what EVERYONE does and it’s how we all learn. (And I really, really, really want their schools to know this – there is too much pressure on kids today to be perfect. Surprise – NOBODY is perfect!) Suicide has devastated my family and anything that can be done to prevent another one is the right thing to do.

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  96. Perfect

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  97. Caution, potentially triggering: I could never have talked to my parents when I was a teen because they weren’t safe. Consequently, I was stopped from committing suicide at the age of 15 on the night I was going to commit it (by what I consider divine intervention). Life has been horrible and amazing since then, and as I got older I looked back and wondered how I ever got to that point. I couldn’t imagine what I was thinking or feeling back then. And then perimenopause hit. And I was back on the hormone rollercoaster. And I realized – this is what happened back then. Puberty hit, and the hormones combined with my crappy living situation nearly cost me my life. So what I would say is this: puberty sucks. The hormones amplify and sometimes distort your emotions and everything you’re going through. When you go through perimenopause and you’re whammied by the hormones, you have the perspective to know that it will be okay, even when it doesn’t feel like it. But when you’re a teen going through puberty, you don’t. You don’t know that it’s going to be okay. That things will get better. That you will survive because you’ve always survived. That life is awesome and terrible and funny and sad and there will be both good and bad moments that take your breath away – but it’s worth it. It’s worth sticking around, and sticking it out, and fighting, and struggling, and succeeding, and failing. What I would tell my teen self is this: Puberty sucks, but living is worth it – ALL of it. When you don’t think it will ever be ok, please trust me that it will. #PubertySucks #DepressionLies #HormonesAreHell #LifeIsWorthIt

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  98. This is so important. Thank you for sharing it.

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  99. As someone’s kid (even though I’m a grown up now) I needed to read this. Thank you for all that you bring to light.

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  100. That was EXCELLENT. Good for you and Hailey! That should be on the front page of every newspaper in the world!!!

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  101. Thank you, Jenny, and thank you, Hailey.
    It’s so important to stay in touch, and to let your children know that it’s normal to have problems, many problems have solutions, and you may or may not have those solutions but want to help without judgment if they are having problems.
    My mother and stepfather loved me. When I was 16 I was suicidal. They knew I was struggling with something, and I know they were worried, but they didn’t know how to ask the questions I needed someone to ask, and I didn’t know how to tell them what I needed them to know. I was lucky to get through that dark time.
    Later I ended up teaching suicide awareness and prevention courses in the Marine Corps, and one of the things that was hardest to overcome was people’s fear of looking stupid if they asked whether someone else was in danger of hurting or killing themselves. Second biggest problem was the fear of putting the idea into their head. Neither was a realistic fear, and it drove it home to hear from people who had been worried but not asked, and then ended up going to a funeral.

    Liked by 1 person

  102. Hey kids in the US with no one safe to turn to: RAINN.org
    Hey adults or parents who can: Donate to RAINN.org
    This organization is helping me today with issues I had as a kid when my parents told me I’d ruined their lives just by being alive, and that I was responsible for their divorce.
    Hey parents who find themselves opening their mouths and finding toxic crap falling from their lips onto their babies: Stop doing this. Yes, it matters; yes, you are that bad. Stop insulating yourselves with the pill or booze or your whatever. Go right now today and get yourself some help. Break the chain of abuse. The life you save may be your own.

    Liked by 3 people

  103. Love this post. ❤

    So much truth. When I was 10 or 11, my depression really set in to the point that was the first time I thought about suicide. The ideation has never fully left. I asked for help, but my mom said, “You’re just a kid. You’re too young to be depressed.” I did not get psychiatric help of any kind until I was 18 or 19 and in college.

    Kids (even young ones) can be depressed. They may not be able to eloquently articulate what is wrong, but they still have the emotional depth that adults have. Naiveté doesn’t override experience. Hormone imbalances can influence it. Puberty was one of my triggers. Bullying was the major one though. I was bullied a lot – for all of my adolescence until my late teens. As a result, I never fully related to kids my age, nor do I really relate to adults my own age now. I have a hard time making friends.

    You learn to internalize it. You lie to yourself, “I don’t really get angry” then realize in your mid-30’s that a lot of your depression is repressed anger from your childhood and general life experiences up until that point. You realize that the reason you hate yourself is because you don’t know how to express yourself authentically, since you learned to hide the best parts in the shadows early-on in an effort to make the bullying stop. You never knew to give yourself room to blossom once rain stopped and the sun began to shine.

    It’s a fucking process. I may never fully learn to love myself completely or relate to others with vulnerability. I still try though.

    My mom maybe could have listened more, but she was still a good mom. She had her own stress and issues to work through. I don’t blame her for my issues, just as I could never accept her issues as anything I might have caused. Your journey is your own.

    If you have a child that comes to you saying they are depressed though, even if they seem fine or you think they’re too young, listen to them. You have no idea what kind of weight they’re carrying on their shoulders, or what darkness lurks behind the mask of normality that you’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

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  104. Thank you. 💜

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  105. All of this, yes. Be there, and stay there. Listen, even if you don’t have the answer or don’t feel you’re ready to hear. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’d seen early on was to be there and listen when they’re little and have smaller scale problems, so as they grow, they trust you to continue being there when they and their worries are big. I am sure I mess up as much or more as I succeed as a mom, but I keep trying. Thank you for the reminder.

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  106. What a difference both of you have in so many lives. Bravo!

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  107. Unfortunately this is something we ended up discussing in greater detail than we wanted to last year because of an issue at school with my son. He’s autistic so he can be easily overwhelmed by too much noise. He was in a class period called “School Mascot Time” and the teacher who was supposed to be overseeing the students in his class (it was kind of like free time/home room) was on her phone instead of keeping them from getting too rowdy. He got frustrated by the noise and told one student “Go back to Mexico!”. The student informed the teacher (as he should have) who then held a quick sidebar with my kid (which she should have and we were totally OK with). This kinda freaked him out because he knew when we found out, he’d be grounded to his room for at least a week. That thought prompted him to email a teacher he liked “What is the point of all this? Why am I even here?”. SHE freaked out, thinking it was suicidal ideation (it was not) and ended up having to call a conference with us, the school counselor, the special ed coordinator and the vice principal.

    The special ed coordinator met me in the front office and told me what was going on (my husband had called and told me I needed to go to the school but not to lose my shit in any way but didn’t tell me WHY). She said he was probably fine and that she knew everything was fine (we were in weekly contact because of my son’s particular needs, so she felt like she knew us pretty well). I took a deep breath and told her that you could’ve said the same thing about ME at that age, when in reality I was depressed, unmedicated (my parents thought it wasn’t needed because I was just being “dramatic”) and suicidal though I LOOKED and acted fine. I think that set her back on her heels.

    Because both my husband and myself deal with anxiety and depression, I’m a little more vigilant (I think, anyway) than most parents about what depression looks like and am constantly watching everything my son does and says. I don’t want him to go through the same shit I went through at his age, until I was 19 and got medicated for the first time.

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  108. So much wonderful advice here, thank you for that. I’d like to add that some teens can’t or don’t want to discuss certain topics with their parents, so encouraging discussions with another adult can be helpful. THere was a point in my relationship with my daughter, too, where I knew she would benefit from the perspective of someone not emotionally invested in her life, so I gave her the number to a licensed counselor (co-worked of my therapist, so I knew she was legit) and told her to go whenever she felt like it, no reason needed. She could even find her own counselor if this one didn’t work. She’s taken me up on it, and she enjoys the sessions, even when they are difficult, because they give her clarity. ❤ to all who are raising kids/loving our youth. It takes a village.

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  109. 111
    Sherri Klaers

    Thank you thank you…this is very helpful. Will do…with my young adult kids and other kids who I interact with. Hugs and love and healing.

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  110. Thank you both!! I’m going to tag my mom, who still has a teenager at home. Hope things are getting better all around; you are both so loved!

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  111. My daughter thinks one of her best friends might be suicidal. She doesn’t know what to do, and she doesn’t want me to talk to her friend’s mom. She’s going to go talk to the school counselor tomorrow; she’s hoping she can express her concern anonymously – without the counselor telling her friend or her friend’s family that it was her. Is the this right thing to do? Should I go over her head and talk to her friend’s mom?? How is a person supposed to know what to do in these situations??

    (Such a hard decision. I think having her talk to the counselor is a great thing. Then the counselor can talk to her mom and help with next steps and they should be able to do it anonymously. Tell your daughter thank you from me. ~ Jenny)

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  112. I love you and thank you so much for this.

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  113. Thank you so much for sharing. Everyone needs to read this. I would like to add: If you see something,say something. Ask if that person is alright. If yo still think they’re not ok,say something to someone close to them. They may be so dark that they cannot longer speak up.

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  114. “It Gets Better” is either magical thinking or an incomplete sentence. The sentence should read, “It Gets Better- after Intervention and Counseling.”
    Love is not enough. Keith Haring’s “Silence = Death” was for the AIDS epidemic but it fits all of us humans. It came out too late to prevent my mother’s suicide. She’d never had anyone she could talk to.
    Mr. Rogers’ mom told him to “Look for the helpers. You will always find helpers.” Below is a list. If you don’t find a helper right away, ask new people for help.
    What is a Mandated Reporter? Who is a Mandated Reporter? https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/statutes/manda/

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  115. Thank you for talking about this. I had a talk like this with my 8yo son recently after some uncharacteristic outbursts of anger. He’s a lot like me – sensitive, perfectionist, often holds feelings inside, and I worry about him. His father and I divorced last year, and i thought he was doing well with it. However, seems not so much. He admitted to wanting to hurt himself, which broke my heart. I told him i was so happy he was willing to open up to me, and we’re seeing a child/family therapist soon. We’ve got depression and suicide in our family tree; I’m hoping my kids will be the first generation in awhile without a suicide attempt/completion. The Talk is HARD, but so crucial.

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  116. There was a completed suicide at my daughter’s school this year and the school decided the best way to handle it was not to talk about it.

    Here’s what I said to my kid about it; I love you and I don’t want you to kill yourself. If you ever feel like you want to kill yourself know that I’m here to help. If you need to talk to someone and you don’t want to talk to me, let me know and we will find someone that you are comfortable with.

    It’s hard to talk about because it’s hard to think about but honestly I think what most kids need is to know and hear is that their parents love them and want them to live.

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  117. Also, remember that if a particular treatment/med worked for you when you were struggling, it won’t necessarily work for your child. It’s good to have hope, of course, but if it isn’t working (and ‘not working’ includes creating awful side effects that are a pain for the med-taker to manage), then don’t be afraid to step back and consider something different.

    And if a particular provider isn’t the right one (especially if they’re being dismissive or otherwise disrespectful), walk away. Insisting that someone continue working with a provider who isn’t respectful of them will make them much less likely to want to seek help. Let your child know that it is okay to tell you if the help you’re getting them isn’t the right help, or isn’t enough help. And then follow through.

    (If anyone couldn’t tell, I was that child on the end of bad doctors and parents who failed on the mental healthcare end of things…)

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  118. My family has depression, bipolar disorder, and OCD. My husband’s family has depression with suicidal ideation. I started talking about mood and brain stuff really early. My husband remembers being depressed at age 6. Age 6! I just wanted her to know that being sad and not knowing why was something she should tell me about. Being so open meant that she made a big announcement to me at 13 that she was gender fluid and pansexual. Even then she was confused when she just got a couple of follow up questions on what pansexual was and a, “Cool, sweetie.” (I’ve always felt pretty gender quiet myself; I just didn’t have the vocabulary at that age.)

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  119. Thank you for posting this. A few days ago an 11 year old boy in my area committed suicide after being bullied at school. I had a very hard time with the notion that no one knew what was going on with this boy, and that at such a young age he felt there was no other way out. I drive a school bus, and spend approximately 30 minutes a day with each bus full of kids. I try to pay attention to each of them and have found that they do show when they are distressed if you just pay attention. I always tell them I may only be your bus driver, but if you need someone or something, I’m here for you. This post is very insightful. Thank you Jenny and Hailey

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  120. As a mom who just learned a few weeks ago that her 14-yr old daughter has been dealing with depression and numbness and anxiety and cuttting herself for the last two years, I cannot second this enough. I thought I had things covered – she’s always been the goofy, carefree child in the house, albeit the quiet one around strangers. But I’m learning that HER depression and social anxiety look different than mine, and that age has nothing to do with it…hers is as real as someone who’s lived a hundred and fifty years. We are talking things one day at a time, and I pray that she can see her way through the dark times to the light of her loved ones surrounding her. If she gets stuck along the way, I’ll sit with her in the dark until she can walk to the sunrise again.

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  121. Thank you!

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  122. Thank you!

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  123. Hi all, just want to make sure you reach out to the kids around you as well. Sometimes it is really hard to talk to your parents – they seem too busy – or too judgey – or too religious for things going on in kids heads or lives (or it feels like that, even if it isn’t the reality). I’ve had a chat to some nieces/nephews to encourage them to talk to their parents first of course…but if they weren’t sure or felt they couldn’t tell their parents at that time… I’m always there for support or to listen. Also that if they were ever at a party and didn’t feel safe, or via drugs/drinking there was no safe way to get home…. if they didn’t feel they could tell their parents where they were (for example, if like me you had told your parents you were actually somewhere else….and went to a party instead) I’d come and get them. Night or day, just call. I just wanted that information to be filed away in their minds in case of emergency….they are not alone…they are loved…someone will come and get them, or talk with them, with zero judgement. My husband had no back-up when he needed some as a teenager, and the outcome of a parent not listening affected the rest of his life. Please be the back-up person too!

    Also, note that some kids won’t ever ask for help or feel comfortable talking – but they are always listening. What you say can make a difference, even if you aren’t talking directly to them. They hear what you say to others about gender identity or sexuality, about weight/size/looks/clothes, about mental health, about kids who drink or take drugs or have sex. Will they hear things that will give them encouragement, or things that make them feel ugly or alone. Throw away comments are caught by children.

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  124. All very important information. Especially the “you are not alone” part.

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  125. Abby K (18) said it was well – but I would like to reiterate that this is great advice for anyone you are close with (or even not so close with) in your circle of friends and family. After two suicides in my ‘circle’ in the past few years – it is important to reach out and keep reaching out to let people know that it’s okay to feel bad and to ask for help OR to be there for someone who may not even appear to be having problems. The person who may be struggling the most may be putting on a face of normalcy – and you may not even realize it until it’s too late. Thanks for this post Jenny – hugs to you and thanks to Hailey for sharing her advice as well!

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  126. Also…when my partner was depressed, there was a simple series about ‘The Black Dog’ that was surprisingly helpful for a short illustrated book. Jenny, not sure if you know these but for those interested, there are two free WHO videos based on the books online (links below). ‘I had a black dog his name was depression’ is about the journey of someone who is depressed and seeks help. The second ‘Living with a Black Dog’ is useful for family and friends (all those tips like, don’t say it’s all in their head, or pull your socks up, or be a man….). If you like the videos, they are based on books (I bought a few and gave to friends when they were in a similar situation). I found the book for people coping with the black dog best (good to give to family/friends who don’t understand…something you can talk about together when having the conversation about ‘what do you need’). We found it was spot on illustrating what you definitely DON’T need.

    https://www.mhinnovation.net/resources/i-had-black-dog-his-name-was-depression

    https://www.mhinnovation.net/resources/living-black-dog-video

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  127. […] daughter’s age, and like me is experiencing the complex world that teenage girls face. Click here to read the entire […]

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  128. This. Tonight this is just what I needed to read. Thank you, Jenny.

    Motherhood is so so much, and sometimes we miss it. Moms, Dads, all of us – parent figures – we miss things. Thank you.

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  129. Another good question is “How can I help?” Sometimes you can’t, but sometimes it helps just to know that you’re willing to help.

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  130. I am not a parent but I have three girls that live close by. They are tweens and a teen and I have learned more from them just by saying… whew did I have a rough day…. and waiting for them to tell me about theirs. One girl was being bullied really badly and was miserable. I’m glad I got to see and wait and ask the question because not only did she trusts me (and I didn’t tell her parents anything they didn’t already know) but I have their trust and am able to be a soundboard that their moms and dads just can’t do without them shutting down.

    I do it for them because I didn’t have that and wished I had.

    This is so important a message to give to our kids, our neighbors and our friends.

    Thank you and yours for the brave reminder.

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  131. Sometimes I say “It looks like things are hard right now because…” or “I am worried about you because…., what do you think? to my son. Don’t forget the small signs along the way too.

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  132. Open communication is key to all relationships. Texting, snap chatting, instagram, email… all of those means of talking cannot compare to face-to-face conversations. Look at your kids’ phones when you feel you must. They will thank you in the long run. None of it is easy and no parent, child, raccoon, or kitty cat is perfect. God bless us, Everyone!

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  133. I wish someone would have talked to me about suicide – I was told at 14 by a cop that my uncle had committed suede. I felt so alone and like I had been kicked in the stomach. Just awful!

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  134. My 12 yr old daughter has been getting therapy for a number of mental issues and just last week she was back at square one with feeling worthless and helpless. I had to just tell her that depression lies to us and it is the loudest voice in our heads.

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  135. don’t be afraid of “all of it”. practice it. trust your instincts.
    write these questions down from Jenny and Hailey. Put them on your mirror and practice asking them every day. Take a youth mental health first aid class (YMHFA) if there is one in your area. Take a QPR training (question persuade refer). These will use those questions and give you scenarios to act out with other people as well as help you to develop a plan for what to do. it will always feel awkward and scary, but a few moments of adult awkward feelings can mean the life of another person.
    don’t should on yourself, you can’t know what no one has ever told you, it’s not in the back of the baby books. just practice thinking and talking about these situations.
    “What do you actually need from me that I’m not doing?” genius question!

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  136. I love this. I love every sentence in this! I especially love Hailey “ask what do I need”. I suffer from chronic illness. I got so SICK of people asking if I was ok and then not doing anything about it if I wasn’t. Especially if I was puking in the girls bathroom (no I’m not ok you twit! I need help!)

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  137. 139
    Rebecca Rundle

    thank you for the smile at the end:)
    i especially like the question “What do you need?”
    i will be using that as it sounds much more valuable than “How are you?”
    Hailey and Jenny, a well written and valuable note to us all. i appreciate you so much.

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  138. 140
    Rebecca Stromgren

    Echoing everything that you just said, because you said it so well.
    Also, just because they are over 18, 21, 30………… does not mean that you are done being their parent.
    Ask them, and tell them, until they answer.

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  139. 141
    Pamela Norman

    Maybe let her read the column and start reading Jenny’s books do she knows she is not alone.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  140. I totally agree and so glad you and Hailey are talking about this. I have depression and I know my ADD child could have it too. I make sure to talk with him about it and how he’s feeling. He has a psychiatrist also but I want him to know that he can come to me no matter the circumstance.

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  141. I don’t have kids but I’m forever thankful that my mom found me looking up ways to kill myself. 20 years later and I’m still here. Things I wish I heard? Don’t grow up too quickly. There’s plenty of time for that. Have fun, but be safe. Also, some people pass too early, and it won’t be easy. It never is.

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  142. Don’t get mad at them (kids or parents, I guess) for making missteps while they’re learning. My mom was livid with me when there was a gun found at my school after Columbine and that whole mess. They would have let us leave school, but I stayed. I thought I’d get in trouble for skipping school?

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  143. 145
    Cat Dog Bullfrog

    Jenny, I have enjoyed your blog and the tribes responses for many years now. I have never felt compelled to add my 2 cents. (And I’m extremely hilarious! and you have fantastic topics!) My daughter asked me if I had ever felt suicidal. My first answer was “no, not really” in a ho hum sort of voice. I thought about this for a day and realized I had given her some really bad info. The next day she, my son and I sat down and had a big conversation about my mental health, suicide, and truly what they may come to experience. (They are 14 and 12) we talked also about how to get through those times so that we can lean on each other. We made lists of “safe” folks to talk things over with. That way the have friends/family to trust. I wish some one would have tried to explain my anxiety and depression. But hey disco daddy that was the 70’s. What did anyone know, am I right?

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  144. 146
    Kathi wright

    Sharing. Thank you hailey and jenny.

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  145. ❤️

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  146. I would only add talk frequently. Try not to make it a major event, talking about things, make it every day. Slip it into conversation. Share some of the things you went through. When I eventually talked to my Mum about depressions, years after I first suffered from it, she said that she’d suffered too, in university. When I talked to her about my ADHD symptoms she said I was describing her.

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  147. 149
    Cheryl Soler

    I guess the “best” thing about depression/anxiety running in my family is that I could spot it so early in my daughter. Now that she’s a teenager it’sa bit harder (because she doesn’t really want to talk to me) but I always try to check in.

    Glad Hailey is getting the help she needs. Depression LIES. and seeing it in your kid SUCKS.

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  148. This is so good and important. 💖

    I wish I had heard that my feelings matter, and that I could share them with my mom without making her sad too. I always felt like I was going to make someone else more depressed if I tried to honestly share.

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  149. 151
    Debora Knutson

    I just watched an episode of the latest One Day At A Time on Netflix that does a great job of explaining and showing anxiety attacks and discussing it with your kids. Could be a start to a talk with your own kids.

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  150. When my oldest (now 12) was about 9 she started hitting herself when she was angry or sad. As a kid who self harmed herself, I could relate and this scared me to think she would go through the same things. I told her my story and we came up with a code word for when she felt this way. A single word that she could come to me and say even if we were with other people and we could excuse ourselves to talk about it. I want her to always know she can talk to me or ask me to talk to someone else. I’m so glad she feels like she can talk to me and be understood. She hasn’t had those feelings for a while but I still ask her about them.

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  151. Yesterday was the 2nd anniversary of losing my husband…and while I am doing well, there are times the kids are not. It is often so difficult to know the right words to say, the right time to approach them…. and it is even more complicated when the emotions are mixed with puberty and hormones. The black and whiteness of youth…. I spent three hours in the car crying and yelling and talking with my 13 year old last night. It reminded me what a jumble their thoughts and emotions are…and so delicate and so volatile.

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  152. I am a “fixer” and one of the best things my daughter shared with me was “I don’t need you to try to fix this. I just need you to listen.”

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  153. as a lesbian elder, (I’m old), I want to give a couple of resources for our lgbtq+ kids & their families and friends.

    so for the kids: everything in above post but also: you are not alone, there’s a huge community of us out here & you’ll find your people. there is nothing wrong with you. no matter how the ppl around you behave, just hang in there. I promise it’s not forever. stay closeted if it’s not safe to come out, it’s okay to take your time with that. you will date and find love, but sometimes we do it later. this is less about you & more about available ppl. and please, please call or text TheTrevorProject.org tel:1-866-488-7386 if you need to.

    for parents: tell all your kids about The Trevor Project. you may save the life of someone else’s kid if not your own child. there is an organization called PFLAG (parents and friends of gays & lesbians) they can help you. they are good ppl.

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  154. Find your kid a therapist they trust. Do everything, move mountains if you have too to get them that therapy. Best thing I ever did was let her choose her own Dr’s and her own therapist.

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  155. Thank you for this post. I couldn’t talk to my parents growing up and I was absolutely suicidal. It’s amazing I’m still here today. Based on my past I strive to be someone my child can speak to. Even so, when the time came she couldn’t bring herself to tell me she was struggling with suicidal ideation. Fortunately we taught the kids they had a number of safe adults in their lives they can speak with. My child chose to tell the school counselor because the counselor wld be mandated to inform me and it wld get the ball rolling when she couldn’t do it herself. I am so grateful. A hospitalization, counseling, meds, and a year later my child had the same diagnosis as me and we have very candid conversations about how we are feeling. Definitely have the talk with your kids. Reassure them you will love them no matter what, even if you might be upset or uncertain what to say in the moment you still love them unconditionally.

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  156. Thank you. I needed to hear this. Will ask my girl what she needs today when she comes to see me.

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  157. This was AWESOME! Thank you and Hailey! Your kid is pretty awesome!

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  158. Everything about this post is awesome. As someone who’s natural defence is to put on a mask of being “fine” I also wish more people would ask “What do you need?” or “What can I do for you?”.

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  159. 161
    Maureen Tobin

    when my son was 15 and heartbroken, and sobbing on me i hugged him and blurted out ”well, i’d like to say it doesn’t get a lot worse when you get older but…..” he seemed to like that answer though, even though i didn’t mean to say it.

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  160. Thank you for this! I am sobbing reading the comments. I’d like to add that it’s okay to take a break (something I struggle with). When I’m having a bad mental health day/week/month I struggle to speak up and say I need a a break and am taking a couple days off. Most of the time it would have been way better to take 3-4 days off than to keep pushing through and getting much worse. It’s okay to not be fine and it’s okay to need a break. You are NEVER a failure because of that.

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  161. Hailey’s statement about what she wanted to be asked “What do you need?” “What do you actually need from me that I’m not doing?” is very helpful to me. I will work to remember it with everyone (not just kids) and use it to let other’s know what I need to hear from them.

    And I am going to watch that raccoon forever!

    Liked by 1 person

  162. Thank you both for this post, getting it out there. When I was struggling as a kid I wish my mom had this talk with me. ❤ Crying happy tears for you both. ❤

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  163. There’s the kind of asking, “Are you ok?”, that is surface and is maybe asking for reassurance that they don’t have to worry about you; and then there’s the kind of asking “Are you ok?” that is shocked and deeply compassionate. I felt seen to my soul when someone finally asked me the latter (as opposed to continually telling me how strong I was) and it turned the corner to my healing.

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  164. This comment is so far down the list that probably no one will read it. But here is my 2 cent’s worth, coming from someone who was depressed and suicidal at 12 and who has lived a good deal of the time with depression ever since. This is my perspective many decades later:

    The best thing that I know to say to someone who is feeling suicidal, and this is something I came up with myself and told to myself the last time I ever felt that way, and I have told to several other people since then, is this:

    If you want to die consider this: This is not your only chance to do this. You cannot screw up and miss your one and only window of opportunity to die! That option will, as long as you are alive, always be there. So, there’s no harm in just putting it off for a little while. The fact is, everything changes. change is one of the few things in life of which you can be certain. This will change. You don’t know in what way, but it will change. Put off doing anything permanent for a little while and see how things might change. Give it a month (six months, whatever) and if you still want to die at the end of that time you can still do it.

    No one who is suicidal wants to be told not to do it. Or that they “shouldn’t” Or that they don’t have a good enough reason to do it. But if you tell them just to hold off for a while, that can work. I’ve seen it work. It worked for me and for the people I have said it to. And in the “holding off” time, you try to get them the help that will turn things to the better.

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  165. This is an issue very close to my heart, so please allow me to rant:

    I don’t have children (for many reasons, one of them being my several clinically diagnosed mental illnesses), but my biggest advice to parents would be: if your children need professional medical/psychological/psychiatric help – if you can afford it – GET IT FOR THEM. If you can’t afford to get it – reach out to organizations that can HELP THEM GET IT.

    My parents (for whatever reason – disbelief, denial, embarrassment, shame, fear) did not get me help when I needed it most. I didn’t get help until I went to my college’s mental health clinic. My childhood would have been a lot less miserable and terrifying had someone been able to tell me I wasn’t a freak, I wasn’t alone, and that there are medications and/or therapies that can, if not stop the madness, at least ease it enough to the point that you can see your way past the moments when death seems like a better alternative than fighting through them.

    To the children, my advice would be: you are not a freak, you are not alone, and you are worth fighting through those moments when death seems like a better alternative.

    I got help, my life improved, I found friends and I found love, and I couldn’t have done any of that had I let the darkness win. Don’t let it win. Be your own light. Have a tiny kernel of FUCK YOU inside of you that says if anything is going to kill me, it’s going to be whatever kills me, and NOT MYSELF. Don’t give the darkness that satisfaction.

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  166. My apologies – my last comment was not to say that people with mental illness should not have children – that was just my personal choice and my illnesses were merely one factor in that decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  167. Thank you for this post, Jenny. I have a 13yr old daughter and we are going through a very hard time with her and mental illness. I feel like I have let her down because I had a terrible mother, and all I knew was I didn’t want to parent her the way I was parented, however, I had no real mother figure to follow to be able to know what kind of mom I do want to be for her. I appreciate the advice in this post, thank you again, for being here with a raccoon in a pool…I love raccoons ❤

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  168. This is so good! Even opening the lines of communication can make a huge difference.

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  169. […] Linked: Have the talk. […]

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  170. After reading a few recent posts from FB friends, I put this together, I don’t know if anyone here will find it helpful but feel free to use it if you do:

    TL;DR: Be the lifeline. Reach out to someone in crisis.

    The last several days I’ve seen a variety of posts about depression and suicide with most of them calling for people in crisis to reach out for help. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to respond to this as someone who lives on the dark side of the depression moon. It’s extremely triggering to read post after post putting pressure on the person struggling to be the one to reach out for help. I know that the posts are well-intentioned but more often then not, they’re guilt-inducing rather than helpful. Also, it feels like a bit of a copout to simply put up a post with the suicide hotline number, say “get help if you need it” and then walk away as if your job was done.

    What I’d like to say is this: the person on the inside of the fog of their depression war may not be ABLE to reach out. They (especially children) may not know how. They may feel incredible guilt and shame that prevents them from being able to take that step. They may be trapped within themselves and drowning in a torrent of depression lies. If you see someone sad or struggling or know someone who is withdrawing and isolating, PLEASE, I beg you… be the one to reach out to them. You may be the lifeline that they desperately need. You don’t need to have the answers, you don’t need to fix them. You just need to be there for them.

    Would you rather feel momentarily awkward being the one to initiate the conversation or would you rather feel the crushing burden of grief of losing a child or other loved one to suicide? A few minutes out of your day for a call, email, or text to check in on someone who needs it may not seem like much to you but it could mean life or death to someone in crisis. Please, be the lifeline. Reach out.

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  171. As someone who battled serious depression as a kid and began taking meds at 12, I can vouch that this is so, so important! My parents were wonderful, supportive people but they were not equipped to deal with the mental health issues I had. They had no frame of reference and didn’t know the right questions to ask, either to me or to my therapist. Eventually, we stumbled through and all got to a healthy place, but it wasn’t easy! Having these kinds of comversations earlier and more frequently would have helped so much. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we need to prioritize it the same way with our kids.

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  172. Great and thought provoking post. Love it. ❤

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  173. @167 I agree with you completely. My mom also ignored my mental health issues while growing up. I didn’t find any help until I was 25…I’m trying desperately to help all of my kids as much as I can now. Thank you for your comment, it’s very solid advice! ❤

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  174. 176
    Darcy Rathjen

    Did you see Michael Gerson on PBS News Hour tonight? Spoke very openly about depression.

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  175. Hi Jenny. What a good post! All I have to add to this is what I told my girls, should they get into a bad place: “I may not be happy about what happened, what you did, or how things are, but I WILL HELP YOU! Don’t be afraid to tell me because I will get over it if I am mad and I WILL HELP YOU!” There were several times I had to deal with things I wish I didn’t have to deal with, but I DID HELP HER. And after that first help, the asking got less scary for her, so that was good. Here’s a quote from one of those times: Her, “Why aren’t you yelling?” Me: “We have some things to take care of now. We will talk about all this more later.” (and we moved on to solving the problem). Plus, if you have a track record of helping (without going completely off the deep end), then the child may not wait until things get really bad before asking for help.

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  176. I have two things. One was my aunt doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself – she called my insurance to find out what therapists would be covered by my insurance in the town where I was at college. Then she called the therapist and had her call me to set up an appointment (since she didn’t know my schedule. I didn’t know how to take that step to get that help for myself. And after I graduated college and moved away from home and got to the same place in my depression, I was able to recognize it and call for myself. The second thing is to realize that you may not have experienced what your child is going through. But if they’re saying they can’t get out of bed, it’s no help to tell them they just have to do it. My stepmom did that to me and it just added distance between us. Parents, please take a little time to acquaint yourself with the symptoms of depression and other mental illness. It may not present the same as you have seen/experienced it and/or you may not have actually seen or experienced it. Be there to listen and support and teach your kid how to get the help s/he needs. And if you don’t know how to do it, google it or reach out. Schools have resources, the internet has resources, plenty of programs out there have resources. We’ll help you find resources. There is no shame in the game of getting people the help they need.

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  177. Oh Jenny, what a GREAT idea! I wish someone’s parents had wanted to tell me I was in a safe place, and that I could always come to them. I make sure my nephews know that Auntie Tadoe’s is always a safe place for them to be.

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  178. When I grew up my mother told me”we always thought you might be depressed.” I was in my early 40s and swore I would never do that to my child. When he was eight, and said to his father, ” I don’t want to be on Earth anymore”, I begged my therapist to take him instead of me that day. He did and he’s been with him now for six years and one other desperation phone call from me when he came to me last year and said”I just need it to all stop.” He was being bullied horribly and the counselor was no help. He is hard on himself and gets upset if he gets an A-.The therapist has written the counselor and principal saying you’ve got a problem, because I have multiple kids here that are suicidal in part to bullying at the school. He got a boilerplate letter saying nothing is wrong. Don’t rely on just the school counselors, they may not see it. Have that talk! We were lucky, I was always open about my mental illness and even as young as four I’ve told my son to never be afraid to ask for help. I know it can be hereditary and it terrified me, I need him to know that his dad and I would never judge, only help. In one instance, it was me sitting outside the counselors office for three hours until she would speak to me -she never answered a phone call- and me saying my child wants to die and I will drag you and this school system through every court and paper I can find that will listen if he does manage, because I know you were told you had a problem. Find a therapist you and your child trust. In my son’s case, they figured out that he never went back to normal. He would get depressed and level off below where he started and kept cycling lower and lower. It’s called dysthemia. His therapist and his pediatricians effort with finding the right amount fluoxotine has brought my kid back to me. It’s a team effort and it starts with a talk about it being ok to talk about mental illness. I’ll never stop worrying, but he knows where he can find help.

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  179. As a kid the same age as Hailey I agree with this.. you should talk to your kids… but do it before things get crappy.. before everything feels like it’s falling apart. Yes you should still do it then but even if they’re aren’t any signs or your child doesn’t have any diagnosed mental health struggles it’s still important. Because doing so could save them all that struggle if they knew they could come to you right from the start. Side note its not always easy for a kid to tell their parent they are struggling or don’t feel ok. Even In close relationships it can be hard for them. Be patient with them, don’t force them to talk but also don’t give up on them. Keep asking them how they are and if they need to talk. Because it’s something taht doesn’t always process just after being said once. Some people may need it told and offered many many times before they feel comfortable and safe.

    This post made me very happy to see. Keep going Jenny 🙂 and all my best wishes go to you and Hailey.

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  180. I love this post so much. I think that Hailey is so wise and so smart, and I am so grateful that she has you as her mother. It’s hard being the person with mental illness but it’s even harder to love someone with mental illness. I love you ladies.

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  181. This is unrelated to this post, and in no way meant to detract from the importance of what you’re saying in this post, but – i saw this and thought of you:

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  182. Come on Mick Halse (183) when it’s this serious and KID-RELATED could we please keep the random weird sex facts out of it? Send it to her Twitter, send it to her Facebook, but leave one page that I can print and share with my young child! I’ll try to resize text to and get Anonymous #181 printed without yours….

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  183. Thank you for this post.
    I was the kid who didn’t say anything, I kept it all in. Then one day I broke, I told my mom everything that was going on. How I felt. What I thought was the only option
    She sat there and just let me cry and yell, and I basically just ended up crying myself to sleep there. She never said anything I thought maybe she didn’t care.
    Then when I got up the next morning she had packed my lunch and In it she put a note that read, I wish I had the right words to make you feel better, but I don’t. But I love you and I’m here.
    That was all I really ever needed. Was to know she was there. The next few weeks she would send me cards and stickers, just little things. In one of the cards she put a little worry stone;
    I still have the stone 11 years later.

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  184. Our family had a nephew that lost the battle to mental illness. It is still the worst thing that I have gone through. My kids are 5, 3 and 1 and we talk about mental illness. That it isn’t your fault that your brain is sick, that people can’t always see if you are sick and that you need to tell someone. That as their mother I will never stop helping them fight and looking for ways to help their brains feel better. And that no matter what my life is better because of them and if their brain says otherwise to recognize the lie. Mental illness sucks and I agree. Talk and talk and talk. Don’t let it become taboo in your family

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  185. “What do you need?” is a question I wish I was asked as a teenager. I don’t know if I would have had a concrete answer beyond “Help” but it would have been better than my parent basically telling me to get better by myself. She was doing the best she could, I understand that now, but it hurt (and still does) to finally get up the courage to tell someone that things were wrong and to have nothing change. Now I know that, and have just been reaffirmed, that question is one to ask in any situation where someone is struggling. They may not have an answer, but asking it matters.

    Thank you, Jenny.

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  186. And do talk about issues like cutting and self-harm. Some kids have not crossed that line but would be likely to do it, particularly those with abnormally high pain tolerance. Pain feels more like “sensation” to them. This is from a mom who has to help her 15 yo pick out shoes, because I ask a bazillion questions. I know if she “feels” the shoe against her toes, it is actually digging in. So I ask if it is touching, squeezing, etc….For these individuals, pain doesn’t register the same, and can even feel good. If you have to use a death grip to properly massage this person’s shoulders, but a light touch sends them running, they may be more at risk. This needs to go hand in hand with the depression/mental health discussion.

    I have had such an open mental health discussion with her that it doesn’t phase her when I check in on these topics. We have avoided cutting actually happening so far, just was in the “i seriously thought about doing it” stage, in part due to the open conversations we have had. And I never punish or shame her if she tells me something to do with her mental health.

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  187. 189
    Michelle Drackett

    Besides being totally open with my kids about being able to talk to me and what my own issues are, I also let my kids friends know that I’m there for them. They have more than a few friends who are either dealing with mental issues or sexual orientation, or both, and make sure they know that my door and heart are open to them. I let them know that they are safe with me to be who they really are, and that I get it because I have issues too. Most of those kids are terrified of their parents or treated badly by them. It makes me want to scream.
    Also, if you think something is going on with your kid, contact the school guidance counselor, or as in my case, one of the assistant principals for help. I knew my daughter was protecting her boyfriend who was abusing her, but I couldn’t get through to her. But I heard about something that happened on school grounds and went to the school. They were great about helping and keeping my name out of it so that I didn’t lose the trust of my daughter. But things were resolved in a very easy peaceful manner. We also saved that boy from suicide when his parents wouldn’t listen to him.
    And if all else fails, grab some junk food, sit with your kid, and just commiserate that life sucks. Sometimes, that’s all they need.

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  188. 190
    Anonymous fat kid

    I wish my parents had had the resources to ask me how I was doing when I was growing up, but my dad was an alcoholic who couldn’t hold a job and my mom went to nursing school when I was in sixth grade and then worked nights to support us.
    I would always be there to hear her vent about her shift when she got home in the morning and give her a back rub before I went to school. I had a paper route and worked after school as soon as I was able so I wouldn’t put any pressure on the family.
    The closest my mom and I ever came to discussing what I now know is the depression I developed at about age 12 is her telling me “I was a loner too” when I was upset that I had no friends.
    I am 40 now and communication with my parents is better, but still feels like walking on eggshells. I chose not to have children because I don’t think I am equipped to do it even partially right. My brother has 2 tweens/teens with mental health issues and their family has gone through hell and back recently but he is far stronger than I am and he is an amazing dad, I don’t know where he got it but the one thing those kids KNOW is that they can come to him with anything and he will have their back and move heaven and earth to help them.
    I wish my parents had noticed me at all when I was growing up but they had their own problems and I never thought that the way I felt was worth mentioning. College and suicidal gestures and coming out all happened pretty awkwardly.
    Whatever you talk to your kid about, as long as you really do care, I think that’s the most important thing. That their feelings are valid and that you care. I wish I’d had that.

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  189. One thing that a lot of adults miss is the kid who hides inside themselves. The quiet one, the shy one, the girl who keeps her hurts buttoned up because she doesn’t think anyone will care, or maybe is afraid of being belittled. It does happen.
    so many of us in my generation went through silent depressions, hidden broken hearts, dark terrors at three AM.
    Dialogues have to start as soon as there’s language between parents and kids, not when your 9 year old has a visible problem, or your 11 year old gets her first period. Sometimes it’s too late by then. They see it as prying (which it often is) or snooping, or trying to catch them at something, and the walls go up.

    Someone once said, kids suffer more from colds than adults because they have an adult sized cold in a kid sized body. I think that’s true of their emotions as well. “puppy love’ is put down as cute, but short lived. ‘she’ll get over it…” love is love, hurt is hurt, sad is sad, and it’s just as big, no matter what size the child is.

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  190. Sharing this with everyone I know.

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  191. And even if you aren’t a parent, know that you can help our youth too. Talk with their parents to know what message they’d like you to share. Never promise you’ll keep a secret from their parents until you know the secret, but help them figure out how to talk with them.

    I once told my nephew that his parents needed to know what he told me for his own safety. I said he could talk to them or I could, but they had to know. I gave my sister a head’s up so when he went to her she didn’t overreact. No trust was broken and we all moved on together.

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  192. I have recently given in and spoke to someone. The noise in my head, the worrying, the falling asleep constantly. I have meds now. Sometimes they work sometimes they don’t but people such as you give people like me hope. I read what you write. I used to just read for the funny stuff, but now i see the value in it all. You’re not afraid to say when you’re having a rough day. You embrace who you are. You give me hope and i started to blog because of it

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  193. 200 comments later, I feel like this is a lost cause. But it shouldn’t be. I have been dealing with depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and possibly Aspergers for most of my life. I am 34, and realize now, that the bulk or last of my 25 years have been in suffering. It is so, so , so , so hard to ask for help. I realize, that every 4 years I cycle into suicidal idieation. It’s an ugly, nasty thing for anything that has had to deal with this. I want to acknowledge the feelings are real, and are here. When you feel that bad, you think people are better off with out you, and that you don’t matter. That is not true. You matter, you are important. and they love you. These are not placations. I have been there. I am still there. I fight this battle every day in my brain. You are loved. You are worthwhile. Most importantly, keep going. You are worth it, you are loved and deserve life. I love you. Jenny loves you. You are worthwhile. I see you, you matter, and I love you exactly as you are.

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  194. […] parents there are many talks we need to have with our kids. From sex to depression to bullying, serious talks are plentiful. But for parents of terminally ill children there is […]

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  195. As a grandmother, my thoughts…Saying this, “I will always love you no matter what. I am here to listen and this too shall pass.” Very important information to share .For many people , “Having a talk”, means talking. I believe that saying the very important things in short order allows lots of time for listening and for asking what is needed. So, “have a listen”, don’t be an expert.
    Even if you are one, don’t act like one.

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  196. Hello, I just wanted to pop in and say that I am glad that dancing raccoon makes you happy – that is the love of my life, Harbor Raccoon. I rescued him from hell and he is my whole heart.

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  197. 199
    Sandra Williams

    Good advice! thanks.

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  198. I’m really glad you asked Hailey about this and I love her response for what she wishes people would actually say to her to follow through. I’m an only child and will never have my own kids, but this one hits close to home because my mental illnesses started presenting themselves around age 9; by the time I was 13 my parents were so at their wits’ end they moved me to another state to get me away from my friends, who they thought were ‘enabling my self-destructive behavior.’ No, no, guys. I just HAVE depression.

    We all know that now, but it took my parents over a decade to stop acting afraid of me and punishing me for my symptoms of mental illness, and to finally LISTEN and ask me what they could actually do to help. It’s worth noting that they said all along that they were “there for me” and that I could talk to them about anything. Of course they would, any parent wants that for their child. But when I did open up to them, whether or not they were there for me really, really depended on what we were talking about. All things considered my case wasn’t even that scary until I was much older, but they were so afraid of me all of a sudden because they so deeply misunderstood the conditions I was experiencing that all they could do was react in fear. My mom did TRY to seek out resources from other parents in similar situations, but two things went awry: her own lifetime of denial when it came to her own mental illnesses and trauma, and a lack of real, proper, robust research into the topic. Perhaps, too, a lack of patience with both me and herself as she learned. This was back before Google and she kinda just took the first things she found at face value. Suffice it to say the information she found was NOT correct and it deeply, deeply hindered me in the long run. My parents refused me treatment for YEARS because of that information; it was the exact opposite from what I needed.

    I didn’t get a proper diagnoses of even anxiety/depression until I was almost 21 years old. That was the first time I was ever prescribed an antidepressant, and even though my parents were accepting that I had a disorder and I wasn’t just Being Like That to be An Asshole, my mom STILL bullied me out of taking my medication because she was afraid it would make me worse.

    Now that I’m 27 (!!) we are FINALLY at a place in our relationship where I can be forward about the state of my mental health and whether or not I’m taking medication, and I don’t have to wonder if mom’s gonna go have a secret panic attack and have me committed because she read a blog post about cymbalta causing berserker mode or some shit.

    Sorry to write an autobiography in an already huge pile of comments, but this one just really hits home for me and I really want people here who ARE parents to hear, from the kids’ perspective, like… I just wish you hadn’t been so afraid of me. Because what I needed was patience and comfort, and what I – what all of us – got was a decade of trauma that could have all been avoided if they had treated me like a sick, scared, lost little person instead of like a Problem Child. My parents waited way too long to listen to me and to OTHER mentally ill people, too. It was their misconceptions about what it meant for me to be ill that made them punish me instead of helping me. I know that loving someone with a mental illness IS scary. Loving someone is scary. But if you really want to help them and be there for them, you need to deal with that fear somewhere else instead of letting it drive a wedge between you. I can guarantee you that your kid is way more afraid, in the “why is this happening to me/what is this/am I a monster/wow everyone WOULD be better off without me” sort of way, than you are of their condition.

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  199. […] Have the talk. I just had one with my two kids this week- so important! […]

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  200. 202
    Tracey Andrew

    Jenny,
    You have become one of “my people”. I relate to you more than you can know. My daughter sent me this. She tried, very nearly successfully, to kill herself last fall and again in January. I myself have struggled with PTSD, depression, and suicidal thoughts/attempts in my past. My daughter’s struggles have triggered my own trauma and the guilt I feel is often overwhelming. I wish I knew how to talk to her better about mental illness when she was younger. I did my best but it was not enough. I know better now, but it’s too late. You are the friend I wish I had. Instead people walk out of my life because they don’t understand. And now I need to support my dear daughter while I myself have returned to a darkness I have not fallen into for many years. I just want someone to see me who knows what it’s like.

    Liked by 1 person

  201. […] daughter’s age, and like me is experiencing the complex world that teenage girls face. Click here to read the entire […]

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  202. I love that you and Hailey have the kind of relationship where you can have frank discussions and dialogues. It’s such an important thing for a kid to be able to talk in a meaningful way with one or both of their parents. Having a relationship like that with my mother is probably the biggest reason that I am still here today. Even though I never actually talked with her about some of the struggles I have had. I knew I could talk to my mom about ANYTHING. And I talked to her about so much. But I never knew how to talk to her about self harm or the darkness that I sometimes found myself in. I didn’t really begin to understand what I had gone through when I was young until I started to understand depression and mental illness better as an adult. But even for all of that, my mother was ALWAYS there. No matter how much I felt like the world was telling me that I wasn’t worth anything and would never be worth anything, she was behind me telling me the opposite. Making sure I knew I mattered to her, if no one else.

    Talking to your kids and being able to have open dialogues is so important. And so is just BEING there for them. It seems like you’re doing both and that is fantastic.

    I’m trying to do both for my step daughter. I don’t really know what messages she gets from her mother. I hope that they are messages of acceptance and love. But even if they are not, I make sure that my messages ARE. I tell her, as often as I can, how brilliant and amazing and spectacular she is that no matter who she is today or who she will be tomorrow, I will love her and accept her. I tell her, as often as possible, that I CHOOSE her. So that she understands that there is always at least one person in her corner. No matter what. My mother gave me all those things, though most of the time she didn’t say it explicitly. My mom didn’t necessarily know the things I needed to hear or needed to talk about. So those are the things I try to say and talk about with my stepdaughter. So there is no question that she is loved and accepted. I’m doing my best to be for her the person I needed when I was her age.

    Liked by 1 person

  203. […] of research studies have actually discovered that this is not real In a stunning post entitled ” Have the Talk,” author Jenny Lawson even more breaks down why that presumption is […]

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  204. […] there already. Several studies have found that this is not true. In a beautiful blog post titled “Have the Talk,” author Jenny Lawson further breaks down why that assumption is […]

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  205. […] there already. Several studies have found that this is not true. In a beautiful blog post titled “Have the Talk”, author Jenny Lawson further breaks down why that assumption is […]

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  206. […] up, she talks a very serious, and all too familiar subject with me. Have the Talk. (Not THAT talk…the other […]

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  207. I wish I could remember where I read this but a woman once said that she would ask her kids, “So, how do you like life so far?” It just hit me as such a great question to ask. You can’t really leave it at just “fine” or “good”, it opens up conversation with a question you have probably never heard before. I ask my daughter from time to time, and have even asked my husband and some relatives over the years. Interesting tidbit, adults tend to answer the question in terms of what is going on currently in their lives but kids answer the question with an examination of their years so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  208. […] open about herself, her struggles, and her life. She is amazing. And funny, which is such a gift. This post is a conversation between her and her tween/teen (I can’t remember for sure) daughte… She’s advocating for having these sorts of discussions with kids. I couldn’t agree […]

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