How Do I Protect My Daughter?


How Do I Protect My Daughter?
Parents want to protect daughters—focus not only on sex and emotions but also suicide.

Parents understand that it can be very different to raise a daughter than it is to raise a son. There are gender differences and many parents report feeling connected to their children differently based up on their gender. This is something that is normal as they look at their relationship with their children and as they consider how to express their love in ways that the child can feel while still being protective of their child.

When you hear a parent wondering how they can protect their daughter, a lot of people's minds automatically go to thinking about the way that boys may prey upon the girl or young woman. These concerns can range from natural heartbreaks that they will go through, to differing emotional engagements between boys and girls who are at different emotional developmental stages even though they are of the same chronological age, to real acts of sexual violence including sexual assault and rape. These are aspects that parents are naturally concerned about for their daughters.


However, there is another area that is not talked about as much. There is another way that parents need to think about how they protect their daughters. As it is not talked about as much and as it is often clouded in deeper senses of shame, parents may not even think about what they can or need to do to protect their daughter. The area of protection needed is against the prevalence of suicide attempts. Here are some statistics that are shocking in this regard:

  • More than 1 in 10 high school students reported having attempted suicide (Youth Suicide Prevention Program, Washington State).
  • Each day in our nation there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12 (The Parent Resource Program of the Jason Foundation).
  • Nearly 1 in 6 high school students has seriously considered suicide, and 1 in 12 has attempted it, according to the 2012 semi-annual survey on youth risk behavior published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (New York Daily News 6/9/12).
  • More female teens than males have attempted or considered suicide. The rate is highest among Hispanic females at 13.5% (New York Daily News 6/9/12).
  • A prominent New York hospital reports that the rate of suicide attempt among local Hispanic female youth is conservatively at 1 in 4 (Community Board 12M Youth and Education Forum on Youth Mental Health).

I am sorry if these facts are sobering. This is something that is important to care for in order to protect our daughters and to avoid these tragedies. Now that you understand that this is something to be concerned about, there is good news in the midst of the pain that this represents. The Jason Foundation states that four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

This means that if you are aware of what to look for and are paying attention to your daughter, then in the vast majority of cases, you can do something to help your daughter while she is still contemplating suicide. It is important to not dismiss some of these warning signs as simply what is "typical" for a teenager, especially if the behavior or statement is out of character for the particular teenager. Seldom will a teenager exhibit all of these behaviors or even most of these behaviors, but here are some to watch for:

  1. Suicide threats or similar veiled statements—these may be made verbally, written or even in texts or social media comments—here are some examples:
  • "I'm going to kill myself."
  • "You'll be glad when I am not around."
  • "I won't be bothering you anymore."
  • "I wonder whether I would wake up if I took all those pills."
  • "My life is horrible and you can't understand."
  1. Depression
  • Hopelessness and despair, either in the way they carry themselves or in what they describe
  • Declining performance at school
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Isolation, especially from peers but also from family
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Personality changes that are abrupt, especially if it involves her becoming more irritable and/or aggressive
  • Expressions of sadness, especially if out of proportion to what is going on
  1. Obsession or just being preoccupied with death, dying or suicide
  • Often shows up in the creative work she may do, whether it is writing or art or some other format
  • Reading writings about death or suicide
  • Dwelling on the suicide or suicide attempt of a peer or a popular idol Keep reading...

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Article contributed by
Advanced Member

The Rev. Christopher L. Smith

Marriage and Family Therapist

The Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LCAC, LMHC, LMFT has served as a national leader around mental health issues both within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in professional counseling organizations.  He works directly with individuals, couples, families and supervisees as the Clinical Director of Seeking Shalom in New York City.  He also brings his insight to help a wider audience through writing, speaking and consultations.

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: LAC, LMFT, LMHC, MDiv
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues, Forgiveness, Spiritual
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