When kids aren’t around, Dr. Palmiter, parents could schedule a weekly phone call or FaceTime and wait for that connection to be established before bringing up the issue of help.
Ms. Garon said it would be appropriate to act immediately and call 9-1-1 if parents are concerned that a young adult may be suicidal or harm others.
Parents should avoid the temptation to give presentations that may come across as criticism and disrupt communication, said Dr. Palmiter. Instead, he proposed a sequence he called “Pain, Empathy, Question”. First, ask questions that will help the parents understand how hurt the young adult is, using words like, “What is your mood like these days? You do so much. “
The next step, empathy, can encourage more open sharing. If a child complains that their boss is constantly yelling at them, don’t intervene and try to solve the problem. Instead, say, “It is terrible to go to work and get yelled at when you work as hard as you do. I am sorry to see you experience this. “Then the parents can bring up the problem of support.
If that doesn’t make a child more open to helping, he said, don’t fight it. Instead, say, “If you change your mind, I would be happy to work with you to think about possible solutions.”
Laura Dollinger of Beaver, Pennsylvania tried this approach. After two painful events, she began to worry about her daughter Emily’s mental health: breaking up with her boyfriend in November 2018 and losing one of her best friends in a car accident in February 2019. A college student, Emily Sie, now 19, said that she started “pushing people away, slept a lot, skipped classes and made friends with people who filled their own gaps with unhealthy things.” Out of concern for her daughter, Ms. Dollinger received a recommendation for a good therapist.
“My mother presented it in a non-threatening way; I knew that she would take care of me and love me, ”said Emily Dollinger. She accepted the recommendation and said her counselor helped her develop healthy coping skills that she used in coping with a recent breakup. The difference in therapy “was day and night,” said Laura Dollinger.