That November morning started like any other. I was making pancakes in the kitchen while my 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son set the table. Their older brother Eric, 13, soon joined us, prompted by the delicious smell of bacon wafting through the air. As I doled out pancakes, I noticed a stack of books on the counter.
The end of the year is approaching, which means we are already halfway through the school year. Holiday parties, special religious celebrations and services, snow days, and winter break are all here. While the holidays are meant to bring us joy, rest, and spiritual rejuvenation, all of these changes also can be disruptive or stressful for families with children. This may be especially true for families with children who have special needs due to a mental health diagnosis.
For children who grow up in foster care, life is unpredictable. They have to struggle with the instability that comes with moving from family to family, while trying to cope with the reasons why they are unable to stay with their biological family. Because of these challenges and others, children in foster care are more at risk for mental health issues than children in the general population. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls mental health issues the “largest unmet health need for children and teens in foster care.”
Suicide attempts among teenagers are on the rise, and too often we hear heartbreaking stories in the news of children and teens who attempt or die by suicide. It’s easy to think that these are isolated incidents but suicide attempts among children and adolescents are actually more common than you might think. Suicide is actually the second leading cause of death for individuals 10 to 24, according to The Jason Foundation’s Parent Resource Program, with an average of 3,041 adolescents in grades 9-12 attempting suicide each day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16% of high school students reported considering attempting suicide in the last year. Thirteen percent reported making a suicide plan and 8% said they tried to carry out the plan.
For many parents, the middle of August is the most wonderful time of the year. After hearing a thousand iterations of “I’m bored!” and waging a positional (often losing) arms race against excessive screen time, we are thrilled to cram our children’s backpacks full of shiny new school supplies and post those “milestone” first-day-of-school pics to Instagram.
Turning 18 is a significant milestone for children and parents alike. It’s a rite of passage that children look forward to, as they think "Finally, I can make decisions on my own." On the other hand, parents typically feel some sort of apprehension about their child entering the perils of the adult world. “Where did the time go,” they wonder, and “Will they be okay on their own?” That apprehension is likely intensified for parents of children who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.