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conska asks:
Q:

My 5 year old daughter threatens to run away and commit suicide? How concerned should we be?

Our daughter is only five, but she is very advanced in her speech and some understanding, as she is an only child. She has been increasingly threatening to kill herself, leap off the top stairs, cut herself or leave home every time she can't get what she want's; from an extra hour of movie time to not wanting to brush her teeth.  We of course know that these "fits" mostly just happen when she is tired and ready for bed, but they are really increasing and spreading throughout the day, and its scaring us. She's is very loved, and has a great stable home and we have a great relationship, so we aren't sure how much concern to give this at such an early age.  
In Topics: Self esteem and identity, Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
May 4, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Thank you for reaching out to Education.com!

In general, five year olds do not have a clear understanding of what it means to commit suicide or self-harm.  You may need to ask yourself where she may have heard of these ideas.  If she is at a daycare or at school, are the children talking about these things?  Is your daughter watching movies or television shows with mature topics and adult language?  The fact that your daughter's 'fits' are increasing is a sign for you to take action and try to find some answers.

Please talk with your daughter's daycare provider or teacher about your concerns.  Ask them if they have heard your daughter or any of the children using this language.  The teachers and/or daycare providers need to be aware if the children are talking about these things.  They can put a stop to it in their classroom and/or center, and they also should talk to the parents of the children who are using that language.

It is always a good idea to take your child in for a check-up with your pediatrician or family doctor, just to rule out any physical or medical problem.  Certain untreated conditions such as chronic ear infections or allergies can cause some children's behavior to change.  Young children are not always able to verbalize their discomfort, so they act out.  And if a condition has persisted and has been untreated, the child may not know exactly what is normal.  More research has surfaced recently regarding sleep problems in children and how lack of sleep can affect their moods and behaviors.  

If you find out that your child's health is fine and there is no reason for your daughter to talk about suicide and hurting herself, then the next step would be to obtain psychological evaluation for your daughter.  Your pediatrician or school counselor may be able to refer you to a licensed child and family psychologist.

If you would like to talk more about this issue or any other parenting concerns, please call our toll-free Hotline at: 1-800-448-3000.  Our counselors are available 24 hours every day to listen and to support parents.  You can also go to one of our websites listed below for more information.  Take care and best wishes to you and your daughter.

Sincerely,
Cynthia, Crisis Counselor
Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000
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