My twelve-year-old son told me that at bedtime he thinks about what would happen if he died. His recent attitude towards his family is negative and he is always angry. What can I do to help him?
Talking about death, a negative attitude, and widespread anger may indicate depression or a specific stress that he is experiencing.
- Make certain you take the time to listen to what is bothering him. Don’t feel you have to correct errors he has made e.g. he may feel everyone is against him. Listen and be understanding about his distress. He needs to know you care.
- It is a difficult balance, but you have to set limits about his behavior. He should not be permitted to be rude or hostile to other family members, including you.
- Find out if there is someone else who he feels comfortable talking to. Maybe this is a school counselor, his doctor, or a minister or priest. Encourage him to talk to someone he is comfortable with.
- His family doctor or pediatrician is an important resource. Book an appointment for yourself to discuss your son’s situation with him/her.
There are “red flags” that are signals of more serious problems. These include:
- Talking about harming himself
- If his difficulties continue more than a month or six weeks
- If there is a significant deterioration in his school work or his friendships
- If he becomes physically aggressive to others
If there is a red flag, I would recommend you get a mental health consultation from a child/adolescent psychologist or psychiatrist. Your family doctor should be consulted to get a referral.