In the wake of the tragic suicide of comedian Robin Williams, the blogosphere and social networking sites are all abuzz. And for every post, comment, or opinion, there are plenty of opposing views, even (or especially?) among Christians. When these kinds of high-profile conversations arise, it’s extremely important that you discuss them with your teen, especially if he or she is going through a rough patch, right now.
Without taking sides in the debate (I’ll come a little closer to doing so in Part 2), here are some compelling reasons to let public tragedies propel you to discuss hard issues like this with your teen.
These Issues Are Important
Before we get to the extremely difficult topic of what to say, let’s at least establish the idea that you really need to say something, as a parent who loves your kid. To not discuss the issues is to say they aren’t important. Yes, they’re uncomfortable, and of course you don’t have all the answers (does anyone?). But when these hard issues come to the surface and are talked and argued about en masse, they become a little more natural to discuss — after all, perfect strangers make small talk about the weather and breaking news. Regardless of what or how much you say, asking your teen about what he or she thinks about it would be a good place to start.
Your Teen Is Curious and Distant
Your teen may be curious about depression and suicide, or the particulars of Robin Williams’ death, or your take on the whole thing. Or your teen may be wondering how many Facebook posts would result if he died the same way. Either way, your teen is at least emotionally distant enough from the public figure who died that this could become a teachable moment.
Were the victim a close friend, relative, or mentor, the emotional intensity would probably prevent open discussion and processing, at least at first. It would be much better — and easier — to discuss the issue when it relates to someone at a distance, instead of someone close.
Your Teen Is At Risk
The mere fact of heightened interest and public discussion about depression and suicide can make these dark topics more interesting and alluring to others and especially to young people. Call it “copycat” or “the power of suggestion,” but especially for those who have a propensity toward such dark emotions or have struggled in the past, simply hearing about someone else’s struggle with depression and their losing the battle in suicide can propel them into a dangerous place. Since teens in our society already commit suicide more commonly than adults, this issue is extremely significant to them.
Continue reading with Part 2.