Positive Parenting: A key to suicide prevention among teenagers

They feel they are mature enough to think and act for themselves but parents are not willing to grant full autonomy to them.
Representational Pic
Representational Pic

Suicide rates among teenagers is sky rocketing nowadays and this is an alarming situation. In the past decade suicide among adult men and married women was common; teenagers committing suicide was rare but for few years the trend is reversing. Why teenagers who have dream filled eyes prefer death over life is a challenge that needs to be met. Adolescence has usually been defined as a period of stress and strain. A period of ecstasy and turmoil; a journey between utopian highs and depressive lows. This is a sudden transition between childhood to adulthood marked by various biological and emotional changes. They feel sandwiched between being treated like a child and  a need to be treated like adults.

Adolescents are full of energy. They always seek ways for channelizing their energy. They want autonomy and freedom from all restraints and restrictions. They want to live as they please. They feel they are mature enough to think and act for themselves but parents are not willing to grant full autonomy to them. They have the notion that adolescence is a risky stage where parents need to rein in the child or else they will ruin the child. This brings adolescents into conflict with parents and creates stress among them. This makes adolescents feel worthless and make them vulnerable to drug abuse and suicidal ideations.

There are many parents who set higher standards and expectations for adolescents. They dictate their wishes to them. They compare their child with others and pressurize them to supersede others and  use negative, harsh comments in case they fail to meet the demands ; this lowers the morale of young ones. If a student passes matriculation which subject he is interested in or which college he is interested to join is not taken into consideration by some  parents. They don't care about aptitude, interest and aspirations of their children. They just want them to become doctors, engineers or force them to follow their path blindly. This discrepancy between aspirations and parental expectations make adolescents feel that they don't have any identity; just a puppet. It makes many adolescents vulnerable to drug addiction, anti social behaviours and suicidal behaviours. "Research has shown that parenting behaviours can significantly impact the psychological well being of youth. Adolescents whose  parents  never/seldom show them love and warmth, tell them they were proud of them, appreciate them, and help them in work are at highest risk of suicide and suicidal attempts among them were higher, while as adolescents whose parents show love and warmth, encourage their children and help them show better well being and academic achievement. They rarely report suicidal ideations." (Keith A King, Ashley Marionos, 2018; C, Donath, 2014)

There are many parents who spoil their children by pampering. They immediately fulfil their every wish and ignore every mistake.This immediate gratification makes a child impulsive, narcissistic, emotional and intolerant. When such a child reaches adolescence, he has an elated ego.  He wants that his wishes should be treat as laws, but when his parents deny fulfilling any wish which they feel is not good for him or when he is rebuked for wrong behaviour he cannot bear it.

Adolescents  keep on looking for ways to channelize their energies. Being unable to find productive ways like sports, academics, thrill seeking behaviours, hang outs creates vacuum in their lives, and this boredom makes them feel that life is meaningless and has nothing good to offer. This makes them vulnerable to suicidal ideations. Besides, many teenagers have fallen in the trap of drug addiction and due to lockdown they are confined at homes and unable to have access to drugs; this dependency and withdrawal symptoms can also be a cause for increase in suicides during pandemic.

By adolescence brain is not fully matured, that's why teenagers are impulsive and unable to control emotions; even a minor negative explicit or perceived comment or denial of a wish  from significant other can play havoc. This is where the art of parenting can make a difference. Adolescents of dual earner parents who provide money recklessly to their children but not the emotional support, and time, are more likely to fall prey to drug abuse, violence, anti social conduct and suicidal ideations.

There are many teenagers who have become addicted to internet games like PUBG, free wire. They remain immersed for hours especially during night which leads to sleep deprivation; and according to many researches sleep deprivation is linked to depression and suicidal tendencies.


For Parents: Be there with the child, understand him,  trust him. Act like a friend; balance love, warmth and affection with control. Explain the rationale to the teenagers why certain behaviours are permissible while others are not acceptable. Make him feel loved and valued. If you feel your child is depressed and lonely, talk to him; be responsive.  Don't compare your child with others. Everyone is unique; value his aspirations, interests and potentialities.  Don't be permissive either. Don't fulfil every wish of a child. Make him learn delayed gratification from the beginning. Adopt a balanced authoritative approach where love, warmth and responsiveness is balanced by standards.

For Teenagers: If you have any problem, talk to your parents, friends or siblings. Every problem has a solution.  Develop a religious lifestyle from beginning. Trust Allah. Always remember self harm is no balm. Try to understand the parental perspective; sometimes parental words are harsh but they are like medicines which are bitter in taste but life saving.

For Teachers:  Act like a parent, friend and guide in whom students can confide. Talk to them, encourage them, support them. Provide productive opportunities like sports, games, debates, essay and art competitions. Help students to realise their potential and harness it. Provide adolescence education and counselling.

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