Parenting

The Real Reason the Teen Suicide Rate Is So High

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School, in one word, sucked for me. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t picked on in one way or another. When I was five, I came home from kindergarten and told my mother that my classmates were instructed not to befriend me because we “lived in a one-level house” instead of the common, more expensive two-story models in our neighborhood. By the time I hit middle school I was too smart for my own good, and my classmates had no problem reminding me of that multiple times a day. “She’ll have social issues if we allow her to skip a grade,” the guidance counselors advised. “Well, no one talks to her now, so I don’t see how it could be any worse,” my mother shot back.

My mother was able to so easily rebuff a cadre of idiotic administrators because she knew exactly what I was going through. She knew because she talked to me, even when I didn’t feel like talking, and she listened when no one else wanted to hear my anger or my pain. Unfortunately for many others in my generation, my mother was the exception to the rule. I found that out in high school when one friend made her way to my house more often than not just to speak to my mom, because her own mother wasn’t around enough to listen.

According to the latest statistics, suicide has risen to the second leading cause of death among teenagers. The AAP lists several risk factors including a family history of suicide, a history of abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, and sexual identity issues as common risk factors. Ironically, bullying is listed as only a “potential” risk factor when it comes to teenage suicide. Yet, every other determined risk factor, with the exception of a family history of suicide, is either a target for or a common result of bullying.

Bullying deserves more attention that the AAP is willing to give. That is, perhaps, because the primary attention-giver in the scenario shouldn’t be a child’s doctor, or teacher, or school administrator. The primary attention giver in any and every scenario a child encounters should be the parent.

There are tons of discussions going on about parenting styles, all of which question how much is too much involvement in your child’s life. Every article I’ve ever read carefully ignores bullying as a common practice in kid culture. Whether you’re a free ranger letting your kid walk home alone from the park, or a helicopter parent over-scheduling your child’s after school activities, you’ve paid plenty of attention to topics like adult supervision, educational rubrics and self-sufficiency. You’ve also paid zero attention to the kid standing next to yours annoying the crap out of him.

As parents, we are responsible for cultivating a parenting style that creates an open forum for communication about anything at any time. Parents who choose their style based on statistics should be aware of the fact that neither government intervention nor college admissions testing pose as much of a threat to their child’s future as does their own inability to communicate clearly and effectively with their own child.