There is nothing more heart wrenching than knowing your child is in any kind of pain — emotional or physical. Teen Mom’s Farrah Abraham is no stranger to drama, but the word takes on a whole new meaning when applied to her young daughter Sophia.
On Monday’s episode, Abraham broke down in tears after her daughter began chanting, “I want a daddy,” which quickly turned into, “I wanna die.”
No matter what your feelings may be for the reality TV star, she was in an undeniable amount of pain having to hear her little one mourn the loss of her dad in a way that threatened her very own existence (biological dad Derek Underwood passed away after he was involved in a car accident). Sophia wants to “die” because that’s the only way she knows she’ll be able to reunite with her father. There simply are no words.
“I want to die” is a phrase no parent on Earth should ever have to hear — and no child should ever think of chanting.
But it happens — and not just in the lives of celebrities who, from the outside looking in, seem to have problems beyond our wildest imaginations. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York State licensed neuropsychologist and school psychologist, explains why children might resort to using the D-word to express themselves in difficult times.
“Usually, it is a cry for help or attention seeking behavior,” Hafeez says. “Often, it means nothing but a child’s poor expression of frustration. Sometimes, after an event, it can stem from emotional frustration and feelings of anger and humiliation the child has experienced, leading to an impulsive outburst. In some cases, children want to initiate a certain kind of response from others, such as prompting a shock value in that moment of conflict. However, young children lack the ability to comprehend the consequences of death.”
While it’s somewhat comforting to know most children aren’t planning on acting out on their words, it doesn’t make it any easier for a parent to get to sleep that night or for him or her to resist the urge to call a professional therapist that very second. And, you’ll be happy to know, Hafeez doesn’t recommend ignoring the threat or waving it away. “Despite these common, often benign factors in such situations, a parent, teacher, adult or even a friend, should not take such statements lightly,” she says. “While you don’t want to reinforce that type of behavior, you must explore a little further when the child is calmer and ensure that the child truly didn’t mean what they said, don’t actually have a plan and have not really thought a harmful act through.”
If you’re stuck on how to approach your child about this, Hafeez recommends gently asking, “What made you say that?”, “Have you ever thought that to yourself or before today?” and “How would things get better if you were to die?” We should never shame our children for their words or dismiss them for making these scary statements, but rather encourage them to find better ways of handling their emotions.
“Getting a child to question their own negative thinking and challenging their own irrational or impulsive beliefs is the best way to replace them with healthier, more positive ones,” Hafeez says. “The most important thing to do in this kind of situation is to have your child learn productive ways in handling and expressing their feelings. By doing so, there is a better chance of finding the root of the matter, and possibly seek professional help, if you feel unequipped or overwhelmed.”
We hope you are never faced with a situation with your child in which you need to heed Hafeez’s advice, but it’s good to know help is out there and there are ways to respond to your child that will help diffuse the situation and help them cope with their emotions and pain.