Dear Dr. Bill,
A ten-year-old boy recently took his own life in our town. I have a very hard time understanding how a child that age has the maturity level to comprehend suicide. And I can’t imagine how I would even begin to talk to my own grade-school children about this. Please help.
Your e-mail just breaks my heart. While teen suicide has increased in recent years, it is very rare for younger children to take their own lives.
You’re right. It’s difficult to comprehend how this could happen, and as a parent, it’s painful to even think about it.
While I don’t know the background to this story, childhood suicide usually involves mental illness or some kind of serious family dysfunction. Sometimes abuse is involved.
Of course that’s not always the case. Some children are born with a genetic pre-disposition to depression, which is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
The best way to talk your kids about this is to explain that we live in a fallen world, and sometimes very bad things happen to good people, even children.
You might tell them that sometimes kids feel so sad about what is happening in their life that they start believing that things will never get better. They lose all hope in the future, and they are so sad that they feel like killing themselves is the only answer.
You should also tell your kids how sad the story of the child’s suicide made you feel, and that you couldn’t bear if something like that ever happened to them.
Assure your kids that they can always feel free to talk to you about anything in their lives, no matter how sad, scary, or embarrassing it is.
Tell them that you will always love them and be there for them, no matter what they go through in life. Also remind them that God promises us that he will never leave us or forsake us.
Thanks for writing, Jeanette.
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