What do you say to someone who says they hate themself?

It was the first day back at school today after the holidays and while work was okay for me getting to and from work was really painful on the first day of the tram extension. It took me nearly an hour to get home from work, when it normally takes me half an hour.

I finally made it to after school care and there was a note to speak to one of the staff. She told me that she’s really concerned about JJ because he told another staff member that he wants to kill himself. I took a few deep breaths and wished that he’d just misbehaved himself instead.

She told me she had a chat to him about it and he didn’t or couldn’t elaborate. He’s said to me before that he hates himself and while I don’t want to ignore comments like this I don’t want to make a big fuss over it either because I think it’s partly an attention seeking thing.

When we got home I tried to elicit some more information from him and he brought up stuff that I’ve said like sometimes he’s a pain in the neck. I told him that every parent thinks at some stage that their child is a pain in the neck but it doesn’t mean they don’t love them to pieces.

He also told me that he doesn’t like his hair or his brown skin. I told him that he’s really lucky to have his brown skin because that means he doesn’t burn as easily. I asked him if he’d been teased about his hair or brown skin but he said he hadn’t. He does get lots of comments about his hair which he hates getting but it’s unavoidable.

We took care of that, however, and cut his hair off. He hasn’t had hair this short for a long time and he loves it.

Tree making is funHaircut

But back to the hate/kill comments. I don’t know what to think or do about them. I know he hasn’t got the highest self esteem so I need to try and build that up. Any suggestions are really welcome here.

I do tell him I love him all the time – more than once a day in fact. I will try to remember not to make occasional comments about him being a pain in the neck because he obviously really takes these to heart and must think I don’t want him or something.

Geez this parenting thing is super hard.


  1. says

    Aww, the poor little fella!

    He’s just gorgeous! I can’t imagine anyone teasing him about his skin colour or hair!

    Parenting is hard work :-(. I would suggest (if you can) a meeting with the school counsellor as they may have some ideas to help you. Good luck!

  2. says

    Oh Jaycee – how heartbreaking for you both.

    I know what it is to have a child going through self-esteem issues and depression is a real thing for children, even more scary in a way because they cannot even begin to contemplate the theories behind it.

    I made sure that the teacher was on the same page as me as to where ‘Salina was when I realised what was going on and I sourced as much information as possible.

    I also have a lot of support from my messageboard groups who were able to give me a lot of tips and ideas.

    Although I never actually went to therapy (because the problem did go away before I got myself organised), there are several agencies out there (underfunded and long lead times for first appointments) that do try to help.

    I will email you.

  3. says

    I love his hair, but he looks supercute with it short. Wow this must be tough for you both. I think you’re on the right track.

  4. says

    When he gets older he will have to beat the girls off with a stick, I suspect. He is gorgeous and incredibly photogenic. He could easily model – but of course that’s not always a good thing to get kids into at a young age. It depends. Sometimes it builds self esteem and sometimes not.

    The Doug Anthony Allstars had a joke, Tim used to do it “This audience will rise up and kill me because they fear my beauty” – jealousy is a curse and I’d say this is what it’s all about.

    Of course, when you’re in primary school you don’t want to be gorgeous or beautiful – you want to blend in, to not be noticeable enough for the bullies to spot you and single you out.

    I think kids often say that they want to kill themselves in place of knowing no other options or being unable to verbalize what they really want. Probably what he wants is not to be teased. I don’t know how bad the situation is for him but I know I hated every minute of school when I started to put on a bit of weight and became the fat kid – and thus a target for the bullies.

    So my advice would be, if you can, volunteer in the classroom and see if you can figure out what is really going on in there. The kids will be good at first, on their best behaviour – but after a while they forget that you’re there, and they might start to display some of the behaviour towards him which is making him feel that way.

    The other thing is, is there an activity he wants to do? Something after hours, something he can take lessons for? If yes, hook him up with that if you can.

    And let him know that if he is really unhappy there and he wants to change schools, you’ll look at options with him – but it may be better the devil he knows.

    Counseling for yourself might be a good idea. Well I always think counseling is a good idea – it helps to talk things out. You can generally find it for free or at least very cheap, give lifeline a call and they will point you in the right direction. They have this enormous book with every kind of resource in it – I know because I volunteered there. Never be afraid to ring them and just ask – what kinds of (insert what you’re looking for) are available. Generally they know about everything from free services for anyone to community groups to social groups.. it’s incredible and if you let them know you’re just looking for info they’ll be cool with that. ;)

    Some kids do benefit from seeing a counselor. It depends on the situation. Both my nephews go, but they’re in an acrimonious divorce situation where both parents need to stop fighting and think about the kids. My older nephew in particular adores the time he gets to spend with his counselor and can’t wait to go see her.

    She found out that he was into stage management and got him a few gigs – paying ones, not a lot of money but he was thrilled – and he blossomed and loved the experience. He’s also been in a couple of music videos thanks to her efforts. He’s just about to turn 12 and me, I’m glad he has someone he can talk to, who doesn’t have any motives other than to make him happy. He doesn’t have a lot of that in his life – and he deserves to.

    I forget exactly where you are but if it’s in NSW let me know via email. ;)


  5. says

    I reckon you are handling it perfectly. Who knows where these things come from? Perhaps he’s heard some other person/kid say it somewhere and get loads of attention for it and wanted to try it on for size. I’ve made heaps of negative comments to my kids over the years and although I hate myself for it and apologise, etc, I think most of us lose our intelligence at some time and make a comment in frustration. I doubt that is the real reason. I especially agree with the last comment. Parenting is hard. Up and down, scary and fun, and everything in between. He looks well loved to me and I reckon that is the very best we can do.

    Although if it becomes persistent, then you would need to act. Trust your own instinct though.

  6. NG says

    Your little boy is just gorgeous, he’d make a lovely little brother for my 17yo if he ever feels inclined to change families!

    My son is also mixed race and the most gorgeous thing ever (of course) and when he was small he didn’t like his hair either but now he’s growing it (which I hate) and he’s loving it. I think he especially loves the attention it brings him.

    I do feel your pain for the difficulties he’s experiencing right now. My son had not long started school when the horrid Pauline Hanson and her racist (and otherwise bigotted) cronies got to share their views with us all. It wasn’t easy. That’s not to say that this is the root of the problem for your son, but that if it is then I can understand what you’re going through, and even if it’s not, it’s horrible to hear your own precious child feeling so low.

    I have a few suggestions that might help him through this difficult time, but don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing them here. Would you feel comfortable emailing me?

  7. says

    He is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your heart break, it is important to receive such wake up calls from time to time.I am super busy and super stressed right now. I just asked my kids if they thought I was grumpy and they said “Yes!”
    I don’t know what to suggest for you, I am sorry. You seem to be doing the right things. All the best to you.

  8. says

    A cry for help rather than a real need to kill himself? Probably but can you be sure? No, of course you can’t. You just have to do the best you can and know that your best is what you’re doing. I tend to agree with the “be aware but not dramatic” approach to issues like this since paying too much attention can set off the very result you don’t want.
    I remember my then 9-year-old daughter carefully planning her own funeral because then everyone would be sorry they hadn’t been nicer to her. And how hard it was to remain calm and not react with either ridicule at the drama queen or take it too seriously.
    Yes, it’s hard being a parent, it’s even harder being a single parent because you have no-one to act as a sounding board at times like this.
    Has JJ got the confidence to try to make something different of himself, young though he is. The short hair style would seem to lend itself to some coloured spray or a shaved pattern in it (if this is allowed at school).