I read an article in the Vancouver Sun last week that has me completely freaked out. This man passed away at the age of 59 surrounded by his family and a room full of love, but that is the happy ending of a very tragic story. Basically from his first drink at 13, addiction took control. Alcohol, drugs of any variety, and stealing took him down an almost irreversible path. His family tried to help but he rejected every attempt.
A couple of weeks ago a friend told me about her co-worker’s son who had just taken his own life. He was 15 years old and his best friend had committed suicide three weeks earlier. Two young men within a month found life too difficult to face and decided to end their lives. My friend’s co-worker had taken her son to counselling after his friend died, talked to him, did all the things you’re “supposed” to do to take care of your kids in difficult situations.
How do you know what you’re doing as a parent will be enough? Unconditional love and open communication will take you far, but what if you miss something? Our little man is a wild man at home, talking a blue streak (hang on, what does that expression even mean?), dancing, singing at the top of his lungs. Get him outside in the “real world” and he clams up and is glued to our sides. At school he does not talk. And I mean not at all. His teacher actually asked me if he might have a hearing problem (he doesn’t, he can hear a truck backing up 18 blocks away) because sometimes he won’t acknowledge her. While I agree this isn’t acceptable and he should respond to his teachers, it’s simply that he is painfully shy. Not only does she not think he can hear, she doesn’t think he can talk. She told me not to worry, HER son didn’t talk til he was three. Well, that’s awesome, genius teacher. My son is four and has a HUGE vocabulary, he just chooses not to share it with you.
The little man is also pretty emotional, but come on, he’s FOUR. That’s normal, right? Hell, I’m 35 and if my expectations are dashed or my world gets rocked a bit I also feel a bit freaked out.
I guess the answer is to just have faith that all the love, hard work and time you put into your kids pays off and they will emerge from their teenage years relatively unscathed. I do believe the groundwork starts being laid the minute that squirmy little sperm breaks through the wall of the egg, and everything you do basically from that point will in some way contribute to who they become. And from the moment they can articulate even the simplest thing, encouraging communication and talking about feelings. We still struggle with this as the little man can’t really identify his emotions with words and we don’t want to impress emotions on him by suggesting how he might be feeling. We’re hoping that by doing it now it will become part of him and he will eventually be able to talk to us about how he’s feeling. Begin as you mean to continue, right? (And yes, I might be over-thinking this.)
I was thinking about this post for a few days when I got an email from a representative of Kids Help Phone. Tomorrow, May 1, is the Walk for Kids Help Phone. National Child and Youth Mental Health day is coming up and they’re just about to release a new report called “What’s Hope Got to do With it?”
From Kids Help Phone: We have a sneak peek of the report online at http://org.kidshelpphone.ca/en/media-centre/publications. That preview includes tips about how we can all work together to foster hope in young people and could be helpful to parents as well as teachers, youth professionals, family friends – anyone who has kids in their lives.
I couldn’t help but feel comforted in the fact that even if we do everything “right,” do everything we can and build a healthy environment of trust and communication, if ever there is a point that our kids need someone else to turn to, there is an organization like Kids Help Phone out there. They provide online and phone counselling for kids 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They deal with issues like violence and abuse, bullying, friend issues, dating questions…anything your kids might facing.
Raising kids is a scary thing. Raising teenagers is even scarier. We just have to do the very best we can, talk to them, LISTEN to them, and let them know how much we love them.
And with that, I’m going to go build a train set with my little man.