They call it the speed validation game. On one side of the table, a parent playing a teenager reads a statement from a stack of cards: You owe me a new phone. I wish you were dead. I wish I were dead. Another parent, sitting opposite, tries to answer wisely and without judgment. “I can see how upsetting it is not to have your phone.” Or, “I want to understand. Can you tell me why you’re feeling this way?”
The role-playing exercise is part of a parent-training program called Family Connections that hosts workshops across the country. It’s designed for families with children who have complex mental health symptoms, such as extreme emotions, or self-harming or suicidal behaviour. The program is evidence of a long-overdue recognition, families and experts say, that parents with the right skills and support can improve outcomes for their vulnerable kids, and reduce the risk of suicide. The concept is simple: train the parents, treat the patient.
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