Create the family you want to have

A Chance to Do The Right Thing

Earlier this week, I had an article published in my professional newsletter for the Maryland National Association of Social Workers. Below is a copy of the article:

by Kate Oliver, LCSW-C
 As Social Workers we have an ethical obligation to support and advocate for the families and children we work with. As someone who both works with and grew up in a family headed by gay parents, and as a former board member of COLAGE (a national organization which is designed to support the millions of children with LGBT parents in the United States), I was excited at the prospect of writing an article in support of the upcoming chance to vote FOR Question 6. In Maryland, voting FOR Question 6 maintains the right for gay and lesbian Marylanders to have legally recognized marriages. NASW has long supported the notion that fairness and equality for all is an essential component in helping our clients. Voting FOR Question 6 supports this notion, that everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law. In a report released last year titled, “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families,” research conducted with the help of The Movement Advancement Project, The Family Equality Council, and the Center for American Progress showed that among other issues:
While overall children in LGBT families have the same incidence of mental health issues as other children, they are more likely to have a mental health issue in states where their families are not equally recognized.
Children in LGBT families have more fear than other children that their families will be broken up.
Children with LGBT parents are more likely to be denied adequate assistance from the state, since their entire family is not legally recognized; the state does not always take all family members into account when providing assistance and may give families headed by LGBT couples less financial help.
Children with LGBT parents are not financially protected when a non-legally recognized parent is injured or killed.
Having gay parents has also exposed me to witnessing the added concerns my father and his husband have had when estate planning, obtaining health care, and worrying about having access to each other if one of them is in the hospital. Non biological parents of children born in an unrecognized union have the added stress of worrying whether they will have access to the children should the couple split.
In Maryland, we have the opportunity to become the first state ever to pass a law approving marriage equality by popular vote. We all know that marriage makes stronger families and all families ensure that everyone has a fair shot in these tough economic times. While some people worry that Question 6 will change religious freedoms or the educational curriculum in schools, Question 6 is being supported by many religious leaders and was actually designed with some of the strongest religious protections in the country, ensuring that no clergy would ever be forced to perform any ceremony for a couple they were not comfortable joining in marriage. Additionally, there are no changes suggested to any school curriculum, nor do schools tend to teach about families or family structure anyway. As Social Workers, we cannot deny that LGBT families are here. In order to protect and advocate for all families in Maryland, voting FOR Question 6 is the only way to go. To find out more about Question 6, you can go to: and to join Social Workers for Question 6, visit: .

Kate Oliver, LCSW-C is the co-owner of A Healing Place, a private practice in Columbia, Maryland. She specializes in working with children and their families where there is a history of trauma or attachment disorders.

October 30, 2012 Posted by | parent support/ self improvement, Parenting | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Parent Affirmation Monday- 10/29/2012- Love

English: In the End ...

English: In the End … (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

This week we are focusing on the second of the parenting characteristics detailed in the PLACE attitude, loving. While it may seem simple to say we must always strive to parent with love, as parents we know that can be hard at times. I find the matter to be simplified if I focus on the true intent behind my interactions with my children, without being side-tracked by the other details.

Take chores as an example, yes, I do want my children to help with the dishes but what is behind that desire? Sometimes the desire we are most connected to when we ask is the desire not to do the dishes ourselves, but we also know that there are times we ask our children to do a chore that we could easily do in less time, with less effort for the child, and less effort for us. So why bother to ask children to do chores at all? Of course we do it because we want them to grow up to be contributing members of society and to any relationship with others. Why do we care about that? Because we love them and want our children to be happy and proud of themselves as they grow into adults. Boiled down to its most essential qualities, our direction toward our children comes, for most parents, from a place of love because we care about them and their happiness.

There are ways to phrase requests or instructions that help our children to know that we are coming from a place of love. One of these ways I detailed in my post, End the Hassle! Tell Kids What They Deserve, in which I describe how to tell kids they deserve a clean room, safety, a healthy body, less stress about school (i.e.- do your homework), etc. Some other statements that put love first with your children:

I love you too much to argue with you about this.

I love you more than I care about what you accidentally broke/spilled/ruined.

I don’t want you to feel any worse than you are going to feel about talking to me this way, let’s both cool off in a separate room…

I love you.

You are special to me.

I was thinking about you today.

I think you get the picture. This weeks affirmation is:

I am loving and loveable and I honor my love for my children by showing them with my words and actions.

Remember, the more you say the affirmation, the truer it becomes for you. If you find yourself slipping, remind yourself that is how you used to talk to your kids before you figured out this way of talking. Forgive yourself, because you probably learned how to talk to yourself and your children the other way from your parents, who learned it from their parents, and so on. Congratulate yourself on trying something new. Good luck!

October 29, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scary Movies

This week, I was honored to be invited to write a guest post for Leah DeCesare over at Mother’s Circle about how to know when children are ready for scary movies. Here is the link: For a Happy Halloween- Save the Scary Movies. Enjoy!

October 25, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, keeping children safe | Leave a comment

Parent Affirmation Monday- playful- 10/22/2012

Silly Furry Saturday!

Silly Furry Saturday! (Photo credit: Buntekuh)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Last week, I wrote about the PLACE Parenting attitude, as taught by Dr. Dan Hughes. For the next few weeks, I want to focus on each of the different parts of the PLACE attitude.

Our first attribute of this attitude is playful. I have to admit that as a parent, this is actually the most difficult part for me, which is actually pretty funny considering I started my career as a therapist as a “play therapist.” However, while my husband is pretty good at finding a silly answer to my children when they are grumbling about something, I’m too busy trying to figure out how to “fix” what I think is going wrong. Well, last week, I had a little breakthrough and I thought I might share it with you to show you what I mean about being playful.

My oldest daughter likes shopping for clothes almost as much as she liked getting a root canal last year. Actually, I heard less grumbling during the root canal. I’ve bought enough clothes that have disappeared into her drawers never to be seen again, or just to be outright rejected to know that I’m not spending money on clothes she has not picked. As a result, she and I have had a building issue about clothes shopping such that I myself have imagined the welcome relief of giving a cat a bath rather than taking her shopping. Long story short, what we were doing was not working despite my trying to process each interaction that went poorly when it came to clothes shopping. Recently, I decided to get playful.

If you haven’t heard of the gangnam style of dancing, you might want to check it out on Youtube (the dance starts around 30 seconds in). Let me give a brief descriptor: the gangnam dance is a sort of galloping style where sometimes you put one hand over your head like you are going to rope cattle at a rodeo. I downloaded the song on itunes and put it on my cell phone. Before leaving to go get winter pants with my darling eldest, I pulled her aside and said to her that I wanted things to go well. I put my arm around her and smiled while I told her that I had a plan for what to do if she got snippy or sassy with me. I proceeded to turn on the song and, to her horror, starting dancing/galloping around the living room. We both laughed pretty hard, but I ended by suggesting that if she found it so funny, she might like to see it in public as well.

And so it happened. Right there in JCPenny’s, going up the escalator my normally sweet, but now snarly girl said something  about me being fat- I’ve already forgotten what it was but it wasn’t nice. I took a breath, asked her in a serious tone if she knew what I had to do now, then, again, to her horror, I turned on that song. Right. There. In. JCPenny. (So sorry if you were there and happened to see that! It was necessary.) We both ended up laughing- I probably laughed hardest. And, we moved on. I didn’t hiss at her in the dressing room to get back at her. I didn’t feel the need to “make her pay” further. She apologized, sincerely almost as soon as the words came out of her mouth, but you know I still had to dance anyway.

When you can, if you can, be playful with your children. Find a way to make them, or at least yourself, smile. Show them how to rise above a nasty comment with a laugh and a grin. Show them how we, as adults, are able to stop taking ourselves so darn seriously all the time! With that being said, here is the affirmation this week:

I find ways to be funny and playful with my children. I welcome moments of unexpected silliness.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

PLACE Parenting for Children with Attachment Disturbance

A mother holds up her child.

A mother holds up her child. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

When you have a child with any sort of attachment disturbance, you also have a child that is very good at making you feel like you don’t know what you are doing.  In one training I went to on attachment disturbance, the presenter, Art Becker-Weidman said one of the parents he worked with described it something like this:  ‘It’s like you as the parent are the control station for a radio station, then the kids come up and play with all the buttons until they find one that gets the response they are looking for.  When they find that button that gets them what they want, they just keep flipping the switch over and over again.’  I have used this description with the parents that come through my own practice and find it resonates deeply with them as well.  What to do when you have a child that is constantly pushing your buttons and finding creative ways to make you feel like you don’t have a clue what you are doing?

Daniel Hughes and Art Becker-Weidman are working to popularize a parenting attitude that really can work wonders if parents are able to maintain it when they have an attachment disordered child (or any child for that matter).  It is called the PLACE mentality, it stands for: Playful, Loving, Accepting, Curious, Empathic.  I find that while the words are familiar it can be easy to misinterpret the meanings of those words in this particular context so let’s look at each word to see what we are talking about when it comes to parenting children using the PLACE mentality.

Playful–  The most common misinterpretation of this quality is that parents believe I want them to throw a parade in their child’s honor every time they do something desirable to the parent.  What I mean by playful is just finding an approach that has a less authoritarian tone.  Instead of telling kids where to go to find their glasses, encourage them to play a little game with you where they have to look at your face for them to give you a hint where the glasses are.  When they look into your face and lie, come up with a playful response “That’s a good one.  I’ve always known you were creative.  Tell me another!”  Often being playful can help everyone tone it down a notch.  If you have a child with a history of abuse or neglect, it can also keep them from getting triggered into believing that they are in huge trouble and helps prevent them from going into fight or flight mode so that you have some chance of them hearing some of the words you are saying.  A way to really get playful is to learn from a parent that really gets this stuff.  Christine Moers is a mom raising adopted children with attachment issues.  She posts vlogs on youtube to help other parents (and to keep herself sane).  Her video blog: is a wonderful example of how to discipline in a playful way.   I would recommend you look at her videos when you need help staying sane.

Loving– When I think of saying things in a loving way to children, what really helps me to stay in that place is remembering my purpose for saying the words in the first place. Yes, ultimately I may be asking my child to do a task because I want it done. But the bigger picture reason for asking children to do a task is to teach them so that they know how to do it, to give them a system for tackling problems, to get them into the routine of caring for themselves and planning how to fit everything into a schedule, or something else like that. In the end, our job as parents is to make it so that our children no longer need us in order to make it through the day. When we remember that we are asking our children to do something because we love them and want them to be happy, healthy adults, we can state requests in a more loving way. By remembering this, I believe the primary change is our tone of voice, which makes a world of difference to children with attachment disturbance.

Accepting– One trap I see so many parents walk into is the argument with their child(ren) about whether their child is having a reasonable feeling or not.  Both the child and parent find this is a way to feel crazy pretty quickly and I would like to present an alternative…acceptance.  Here is how it goes, maybe it sounds familiar:

Child comes down to breakfast dressed in a completely inappropriate outfit for school

Parent (being curious):  Wow, is there something going on at school today?  That’s an interesting outfit.

Child: I knew you wouldn’t let me wear it!  You never let me wear anything I want!  You’re such a witch!  You want me to be the ugliest girl in school!

Parent (accepting):  That made you mad.  I can see how you would be mad if you thought I wanted you to be the ugliest girl in school.

It’s that simple- do not engage in an argument about whether you want her to be the ugliest girl in school!  If that is her belief in that moment, accept that her feeling is appropriate for the interpretation.

Curious– In my office, I often frame this curiosity as being a “feelings detective.”  I tell kids I ask lots of questions because I am a very curious person and sometimes it takes me a while to understand things.  Get curious about your children.  In the above example, rather than arguing about who wants whom to look ugly, you might get curious about it.  “I wonder what made you think I wanted you to look ugly when I asked about your outfit.”  Another way to help with getting kids to understand you are curious (not judgmental) is to say something along the lines of, “I’m curious what got you so mad because I don’t want you to feel that way again. ”  When they tell you what got them mad, again make sure you avoid arguing about whether that is really what happened (accepting) and then …empathize.

Empathy– Empathy looks like this,” If I thought someone felt that way about me/ said that to me/said that about me I can see how you would feel mad/sad/ scared too.”  That’s all empathy is being able to see something from the viewpoint of another person.  Empathy does not involve any discussion about whether someone is right or wrong for feeling the way they are feeling.

So, why does this work?  It works because our children with attachment disturbance find the things we need to do most often, educate, speak with authority, and parenting, to name a few, to be triggers to them of things that remind them of times they were hurt or  neglected.  When kids do not learn the typical role of parents early on, they easily misinterpret the actions of parents.  Using the PLACE mentality is one way of reducing the number of triggers for your child, not to mention that it just makes parenting more fun.  I use it with my own securely attached children as well.  Of course, this is a very quick overview of the PLACE mentality.  It is important that if you feel you are in a position with your child(ren) where you need to utilize the PLACE attitude more and could use support in doing so, that you see a therapist that has an attachment informed practice.

October 18, 2012 Posted by | attachment, attachment disorder, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- Respect- 10/15/2012

Right-Wing Republicans vs. Corporate Democrats...

Right-Wing Republicans vs. Corporate Democrats vs. Progressive Populists (Photo credit:

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

As we continue the election season in the United States, it seems easier and easier to get caught up in the polarity between candidates, especially regarding their moral values and beliefs about who should do what, where, when and why. We hear arguments about religious and moral beliefs, personal freedom and equality. We are reminded from candidates on both sides that our vote is a vote for our own value system even though I am sure many of us have values that do not always align 100% with either candidate.

One opportunity our election system gives us is to model for our children the ideas of individual freedom, respect and personal self-expression. With all the discussion about bullying in schools, we have the opportunity at home to show children how to disagree with someone, their politics, their moral stance, their opinion about a particular candidate, while refraining from making sweeping statements about everyone on either sides personal characteristics.

I had an opportunity to do this in my own family this week. We talk about politics a lot and keep our children informed of events as they unfold as well as discuss with them our particular point of view on the topics at hand. The other day, my youngest daughter referred to people who support one of the candidates in the upcoming election as “stupid.” It gave me a chance to really check my own internal talk about people with a different point of view than mine. It is so easy to say that people supporting the “other” candidate, whatever that means in your house, are wrong, misinformed, “stupid,” especially when there are particularly important issues being worked out.

In my state, in addition to the presidential election we are voting on issues like the Dream Act, marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, and whether to expand gambling casinos. While I am not always quiet in my posts about my opinions on these subjects and where they come from, I hope for you and for my children, that I have always been respectful. When my daughter called supporters of our “other” candidate stupid, I was quick to remind her that while she may not agree with their thoughts on the issues, it is important to be mindful that when we make a sweeping statement like that we are often including family members and friends that are essential to our lives. We talked about other statements that would be more accurate such as, “I don’t agree with them.” “Maybe they don’t think about this subject the same way I do.” And “I don’t understand the reasons they think that way and maybe we need to talk about it some more….”

While candidates may not always play along with our sense of right and wrong, or respectful dialogue, we can still model this for our children. And, if someone makes a statement we disagree with strongly, we can direct our disagreement toward them, rather than overgeneralizing. If you agree, please feel free to use the following affirmation:

I am respectful to others and they are respectful to me. I model for my children the ways to disagree in a loving, courteous tone.

What I love about affirmations is that you do not always have to agree with the original statement, for example “they are respectful to me” because as we turn our attention to the possibility of something, we tend to see it more than we did before. Look for the ways in which people are respectful and courteous, especially people who disagree with you. Point it out to your children. Show it to them yourself.

October 15, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Steps to Take if Someone You Love is Suicidal

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weeks post examined how to determine whether someone is actually suicidal. This week, I want to give you general guidance should you ever have someone you know who is actively suicidal. As I said last week, the hospital is the place to be for anyone who is suicidal, however, there are a few measures you might want to take if you are on the fence about how serious the feelings are that your loved one is experiencing. This post is not intended in any way to constitute medical advice. I strongly urge you to call a mental health professional or suicide prevention hotline if you are having these concerns.

An important side note for teens. Sometimes friends ask us to keep a secret for them about their thoughts of dying. This is not a safe secret! Please tell an adult immediately- your parents, you school guidance counselor, or a trusted teacher, aunt or uncle is a good choice. Here’s the thing- you would rather have an alive, angry friend, than a dead friend who isn’t angry with you.

If you are suicidal, please seek help now. Suicide is what we in the mental health profession like to call a long-term solution to a short-term problem. I know so many people who once contemplated ending it all  who are sooo happy they decided to stick around.

5 steps to Take with a Suicidal Loved One (including what to do if they refuse to get help)

1. The first thing you need to do if you are worried that someone is suicidal is…ask! Asking can go like this:

Are you thinking about dying?

Do you ever think about killing yourself?

Have you ever considered taking your own life or hurting yourself?

Or any other way that sounds like it would work for you. There are a few important things to know about asking. The first important thing to know is that asking will not put the idea in someone’s head unless it was already there. This is, by far, the most common concern I hear about asking. I’ve asked so many people these questions that I cannot even count so let me tell you how asking typically goes from children through adults. I typically get one of two responses. One response is the, “I’ve thought about it a few times” response, or “I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.” These are causes for concern and need to be addressed. The other, much more reassuring response is when the person you ask looks at you like you have just grown an extra head before saying no and telling you that you get too serious all the time. A third response, that I have not gotten (probably because the people coming to see me are looking for help) is a muted response without committing either way. That is a concerning response that also needs to be addressed. Seriously though, just ask if you are worried someone is feeling that way. If you have any indication that they are suicidal or even thinking about it, continue on to question #2.

2. The next question you want to ask someone is: Have you ever thought about how you would do it?

This question gives you insight into how serious the person is. I remember someone saying to me once that she thought about killing herself and then, when I asked this question, she said, something along the lines of, “If I could be promised that dying were easy, and all I had to do was push a button and it would be over, I know there have been times I would have done that. Until it’s that easy, I’m not going anywhere.” This is a more reassuring answer since it implies that while the person has thought about it, they have not thought in an in-depth way.

There are other people, however, who will tell you what they thought about doing in a way that lets you know they have planned, they are thinking about it and they are serious, unless they are able to sufficiently reassure you that that is how they used to think and that they no longer are thinking in that way. These are people who must be seen by a mental health professional immediately for further evaluation. In the meantime, if possible, try to make sure that the means of harm they would use (prescription drugs, ropes, guns, etc.) are not available. Also, if a person says something to you like the only way they would kill themselves is to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and you live in Washington DC, you can breathe slightly easier. Still, to be on the safe side, I recommend everyone take the next step regardless of your level of concern.

3. Ask the person you are concerned about to make an agreement to go to the hospital or call the suicide prevention hotline if they feel as though they cannot promise safety. Ask them to promise you they will remain safe. Make them write it down if you need to in order to emphasize the agreement.

4. If you have any concerns that your loved one is still not safe to make good decisions, do not delay, get them to the hospital no matter what it takes. For a person that is not willing to go to the hospital, do not be too intimidated to call 911. That is what they are there for. As I stated earlier in this post, you would rather have a friend who is alive and angry, than a friend who is dead but still likes you. And, by the way, I don’t know anyone who ever stayed mad at someone who stopped them from dying. I know in my state, Maryland, there is also something called an “emergency petition” (you can just google emergency petition and the name of your state to find out about how to go about this in your state). An emergency petition is something a parent, partner, or mental health professional can fill out to get an order stating that the person must be evaluated by a mental health professional.   I have done emergency petitions before and, while I know people have visions of someone being taken away and institutionalized for years, I have yet to see that happen. What most typically happens is that the person goes to the hospital, gets evaluated, makes a safety contract, gets a support system and gets connected with counseling. If it’s helpful just think of it this way: hospitals are not any more interested in keeping people for psychiatric issues than they are for physical health issues. Insurance companies are just as invested in making sure people stay out of the hospital for this issue as they are for any other. In other words, don’t worry about getting someone to the hospital by whatever means necessary. In the end, you will be glad you did.

5. After it’s over, support your friend. Call them, check in with them and, get support for yourself. Remember, you never want to feel like the only person who is keeping someone else alive. It is not fair to either of you and is way too much pressure for one person alone.

Have you ever had to help someone in this way? What were your experiences?

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Suicide | 3 Comments

Announcing a New Group for Parents of Children with Attachment Disorder

For my local readers, I wanted to share the announcement that I will be starting a new drop-in group for parents. Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone you feel would benefit.

Thank you,

Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

A Healing Place in Columbia, Maryland would like to announce that Kate Oliver, LCSW-C will be hosting a new drop-in group for 

Parents raising children with attachment related issues.

The group will be held on the 3rd Wednesday of every month from 7:30-9pm. (4th Wednesday in November)

Participants must be referred by either their therapist or their child’s therapist prior to attending and must call to confirm attendance by the Monday before the group.

The purposes of this group are to discuss unique issues that arise while parenting these children, to educate parents about attachment, and to build a supportive community for parents.

Group cost is $50 for one parent or $75 for 2. Space allows for a maximum of 8 participants so please call or email Kate to ensure that there will be space available.



October 8, 2012 Posted by | Groups/ trainings, resources/ book reviews | 3 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- work- 10/8/2012

gratitude and rust

gratitude and rust (Photo credit: shannonkringen)

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Whether you have a job outside of your home or not, we all have aspects of our work that we don’t necessarily look forward to. However, when you think about it, there is always a reason we chose the work we do. Perhaps it pays the bills, meets a logistical need, keeps you closer to your family, or maybe your job right now, is to look for another job to meet your needs. Regardless, there are sometimes days when it feels difficult to see anything but the parts of your job that don’t feel so good. On these days, I encourage you to use this affirmation:

I love my work for all of the blessings it brings to my life.

What does your work have to do with your parenting? The way that we tackle any tasks we are not necessarily looking forward to teaches our children how to handle these moments as well. Do we look at hard work with gratitude because of all the good it affords us in our lives, or do we grumble and moan while letting it stack up until the tough parts seem too big to handle? Either way, whether we like it or not, we are modeling for our children how to get the more difficult aspects of life handled. And, either way, the job gets done eventually (we hope) so why not do it remembering the best parts of why we do what we do for work?

October 8, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suicide Prevention: Determining if Someone is Suicidal

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Man thinking on a train journey.

Man thinking on a train journey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the years, I have talked to many, many parents, partners, and spouses about what to do if you think someone you love might be suicidal. There are really two parts to figuring out about suicide, 1. determining whether someone is indeed suicidal, and 2. if the person is suicidal, figuring out the level of risk and making sure they are safe. I am going to tackle one section a week so stay tuned for next weeks post. I want to state at the beginning of this post that, of course, my advice here is general and should not be substituted for individualized mental health advice. If you absolutely know someone is suicidal, please take them to the nearest emergency room or contact your local mental health hotline. And, if you are reading this post because you have someone you are concerned about, even if they are not suicidal, please do your best to encourage and support them in seeking therapy as soon as possible. There are mental health services available to many in the United States even if you are under-insured or are not able to afford counseling.

Determining whether someone is suicidal

There are times when you absolutely know someone is suicidal, either you found a note, they told you they were, you find them in the process of attempting, etc. But other times it can be more difficult. Sometimes parents tell me they think their adolescent is saying they want to die in order to get attention. If this is happening, please stop for a moment to think how desperate you have to feel about getting attention in order to say this. I want to make sure that you know that, even with young children, any indication that someone is suicidal needs to be taken seriously. Even if you think they are trying to get attention, don’t you think it would be a good idea to give them some if things have gotten this extreme? I’ve actually come to know of quite a few people via the work that I do who have tried to “get attention” by attempting suicide in the hopes that someone would notice them. I wonder how many suicides are just that, someone thinking they are doing something to get attention but they actually end up dying. Pay attention! Here is what I recommend to all parents who tell me that their child is saying they are going to kill themselves for attention. Tell them you need to take any statement like that seriously and ask if they are serious. If they say that they are, take them to the hospital. Here’s the thing, I know you might say to yourself, “I don’t want to waste the time of the hospital personnel” or, “This kid is trying to waste my time.” Take them to the hospital. Tell them you love them and that you have to take this threat seriously. Sit with them for the hours it takes to be seen. If they are not suicidal, they will be so bored and so over it that by the time you have finished with it, they will never want to have to do that again. You will have nipped a nasty reaction in the bud. The alternative when you take them to the hospital is finding out that they were, in fact, serious and you took them right where they needed to be anyway.

Here’s the thing about the hospital. They are busy. They don’t want to take your child, your friend, spouse, etc. unless they think they need to. Just like they are not looking to keep people for any extra time after surgery, they are not looking to take in people who do not actually need to be there, so please do not worry, the person you take will not be admitted unless they need to be, in which case, you did the right thing.

Warning signs

Other times, you may have someone who you care about who you fear may be suicidal and not telling. Maybe they have had a series of unfortunate circumstances or are having a mental health issue, like a depressive episode. Here are some warning signs that a person is more likely to consider suicide as an option:

  • They have had recent loss such as a death in the family, ending of a significant relationship or loss of a job.
  • They have a history of depression. Depression is characterized in adolescents differently than it is in adults. Adults tend to have a loss of interest in their usual activities, difficulty attending to tasks, a sense of hopelessness. In children and adolescents, depression more often manifests as irritability and anger.
  • They have friends or family members who have committed suicide.
  • They have mentioned, even just in passing, that they should just kill themselves, or that they wish they could die. Sometimes they may talk about everyone being better off without them.
  • They suddenly begin giving away important items you would not expect them to give away and seem to be suddenly peaceful after a period of difficulty.
  • They begin to isolate themselves from friends and family members.
  • They have increased alcohol or drug use and/or impulsive or reckless behaviors.
  • They have previously attempted suicide in the past.

If you notice any of these symptoms, please take these next steps to ensure that your loved one is safe. Better safe than sorry, as they say. It is especially true in this case.

Stay tuned, next week I will write about what to do to support someone if you fear they are suicidal. In the meantime, here are a few resources.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

How to Know When You or Your Child Need a Therapist (

October 4, 2012 Posted by | keeping children safe, Suicide | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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