Acknowledging your vulnerabilities is a brave and courageous act; so much so in fact, that many “fully cooked” adults still have difficulty doing it. Imagine how hard being courageous is when you are a kid or young adult? It takes some serious courage and bravery to talk openly about the things we’re concerned or stressed or worried about, and anytime we have the opportunity to talk to our kids about how to get help when feeling that way we should take it. Anyone who’s navigated the stormy waters of adolescence and young adulthood knows it feels pretty lonely, even on some of the best days. I have two teenagers – one just starting the teen journey and one wrapping it up – so I feel pretty comfortable talking about parenting this cohort. It is NOT for the weak of heart. (And that’s just for us as parents; imagine how hard it is to *be* a young person today?)
I am not a perfect parent. (I miss that target by miles. Case in point: See the historical record of my “Amazing & Regrettably Public Department Store Meltdown ‘12” if seeking proof.) But one thing I know I’ve done well is making sure my kids understand that as they get older, they will have things they’ll need or want to talk to an adult about, and that I very likely will not be the adult they are looking for in that moment. As they mature, their issues may move away from being things they can hardly wait to tell me about after school. Instead, they will become private and want to hold things from me. I don’t love this shift, but it’s natural and a process of their evolution into young adults.
I also tell them that recognizing they should speak to someone for help calls for immense courage and I am okay with them calling someone not “mom;” in fact, I fully support it and can tell them how to do it.
The “how” is Kids Help Phone. Kids Help Phone offers 24/7 professional counselling through phone or chat, information, referrals and a volunteer-led text based support to young people in Canada. They also share content, tools, and tips through social at @KidsHelpPhone on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. (Print this article out or send your kids a link to it. Sure; they’ll likely roll their eyes or not reply, but they’ll HAVE it, and that is what counts. I’ve also told my kids to share the info and numbers with their friends who they feel could use a safe space to talk.) Parenting (and friendship) is a village and if we can point out the helpers, we should feel called to do so.
As much as we tell our kids (and tell, and tell, and tell again…) how important it is to reach out to us when they are needing help, it’s hard for kids to admit vulnerabilities. Let’s be honest and acknowledge that the world isn’t always kind or friendly to young people. We as parents can do our part by aiming to make our homes safe, loving spaces, but the reality is that not all families can achieve that, and even in the ones that do, there will often be subject matter young people just won’t feel comfortable sharing with us. It can be challenging to face a parent when all a young person can think about is the (perceived or real) immensity of their problem at hand and how a parent may react. They could be facing peer pressure, bullying, anxiety, exam or school crisis, or even suicidal thoughts, or crippling worry about a friend or loved one. The point is they need someone to talk to, and if it’s not going to be you, it can be a trusted professional counsellor or volunteer Crisis Responder at Kids Help Phone.
We all want the best for our kids and hope they’ll come to us when they need help or support or advice, but the reality is that older kids and teenagers often don’t want to “burden” us with their issues. But this shouldn’t mean that kids have nowhere to turn or that we can’t be involved in getting them help. Give them that; give them the knowledge that Kids Help Phone exists. Tell them again and show them and share with them. (They probably won’t acknowledge or show appreciation for your efforts but hey; you’re parenting teenagers so this will not be unusual.) And something parents and adults should know as well is that Kids Help Phone is a charity, and as such, they rely on outside donations to operate. You can find out about all the different ways to donate here.
As much as we tell our kids they can come to us with anything, what they really need to know is that there IS a place they can go, day or night, and it is also a place they can recommend to a friend should they think they need it. Parents can feel good about Kids Help Phone because it is reputable and respected, so help spark some courage and share this information. It gives young people the help they need when they need an anonymous, confidential, non-judgmental voice of support, and it is easily accessible by phone, text, or online. Parents can - and should - tell their kids how they are here for them - but let’s go a step further and make sure our kids know that above all else, Kids Help Phone is there as well.