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A Classmate's Suicide and an Unfriendly Mom Friend

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: A child in my daughter's high school committed suicide over the holiday break. My daughter didn't know the child and doesn't seem particularly bothered by the incident. I'm not sure if I should discuss this incident or just let it blow over. Any advice? -- Scared

Dear Scared: Teenage suicide is certainly cause for alarm. Impulsivity paired with hormonal mood swings and the rise of social media make even one suicide worrying.

While your daughter may appear to be at ease about this recent suicide and show absolutely no signs of depression, it's still important to debrief with her. Teens are more susceptible to suicide contagion, the idea that one suicide could spread just the way a virus does. Upon the death of a classmate, there is often an outpouring of love and support for the deceased all documented on social media. All of that attention, albeit when the object of the affection is no longer able to enjoy it, can set off a range of emotions and a dangerous chain of events.

Teens are experts at hiding what is really going on in their lives. So your daughter might be more affected than you realize. Go ahead and double-check your daughter's thoughts on the matter by asking her directly, "How are you feeling about the death of your classmate?" To foster conversation, ask it as an open-ended question as opposed to "Are you okay?" If you are scared, tell your daughter. Explain to her that even though you didn't know the child who died, it makes you worry. Remind your daughter that there isn't any mistake or problem that you couldn't work through together as a family. Have a no-questions-asked policy for if your daughter were to ever need emergency help for herself or a friend. After all of this, keep an eye on her for any changes in her routine, actions and state of mind. Check in with her at any time in the future as warranted, too.

Dear Family Coach: My 3-year-old son's best friend is an adorable little girl who I love, but I really don't get along well with the mother. How do I keep having play dates with my son and his friend while forcing myself to be with the mom for a few hours? And how bad of a parent will I be if I make fewer play dates with them because the mom and I are so different and I enjoy with being other kids' parents more? -- Unfriendly

Dear Unfriendly: At your child's age, play dates are as much for you as they are for the kids. Toddlers are not the easiest companions. Parents can often use a little pick-me-up from a friend, or an opportunity to share the load. I don't know if I could have made it through my own kids' toddlerhood with a speck of sanity if it wasn't for the dinner dates I had with friends and their kids.

While this adorable girl might be your son's best friend, he would probably be just fine having fewer dates with her. At 3, kids are only beginning to have actual friendships with real feelings and cooperative give-and-take. If this mother isn't your cup of tea, slowly begin to explore other opportunities for both you and your boy. However, try not to drop this girl like a hot potato. After all, the mom may not feel as you do. No need to hurt her feelings by cutting her off harshly.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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