As some of you may already know, I am an Ambassador for Kids Help Phone and I am excited to share with you that they have launched a new website that is mobile friendly, as many of today’s young people spend a majority of time on their phones and devices. They have also refreshed their Always There chat app, offering live chat five days a week to support young people in distress, anywhere and everywhere. Kids Help Phone is making sure support is literally at their fingertips, remaining always anonymous and confidential. Most kids say that when they talk to a trusted Kids Help Phone counsellor, it’s the first time they have talked to anyone about their issues.
As a parenting community we need to better understand the struggles our children face – online and off. A recent survey by Kids Help Phone showed that 1 in 3 parents are seeing their children struggling with emotional issues on social media daily. 36% of parents are anxious about their kid’s experience on social media. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young adults, yet parents say they don’t feel sure of how to deal with the emotional angst they see their child struggling with. SO, what is a parent to do?
- Talk to you children about the services at Kids Help Phone – explain they are always open, providing non-judgmental support and information about any problem or need. No one will ever know they connected with them and parents will never be notified. It is a trusted source of information for youth and the issues they face including: bullying, body image, gender issues, etc. Talking always makes people feel better; why not make it someone who is trained and trusted?
- Continue to build up the relationship with your children. A healthy parental relationship is a protective factor. In adolescence, your children probably want to socialize with you in new ways. Try to get into their interests and activities. Maybe shopping at the mall and manicures can replace trips to the park and bike riding. Or join them in World of Warcraft, instead of tobogganing together.
- Watch for any changes in their behaviour; wanting extra privacy, changes in sleep habits or eating less/more, avoiding the family, drop in school marks, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to them and share that you are worried about them.
- Take all their comments and complaints seriously. If your child says they have suicidal thoughts or are feeling very sad, take the time to listen and let them know you love then and they are not alone. If they are willing to talk to a counsellor by phone or in person, make arrangements for them.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are having suicidal thoughts. Asking “Are you having thoughts of killing yourself?” doesn’t plant the idea in their head.
- Discuss that it is common to have stress, anxiety and worries – but there are effective coping strategies to help deal with those emotions. Kids Help Phone has a “Resources Around Me” area they can check out to learn about services available in their community.
- Don’t take it personally if you are not their first stop. Often kids don’t want to let their parents down and don’t want to expose their flaws. Honour that and don’t make them feel badly that you are not the confidant of choice this time.
- Model good coping strategies to your kids. If you partake in mindfulness training, yoga or journaling to help you manage your stress, let them catch you in the act.
- Kids Help Phone is age agnostic – if you feel that you are a young person who needs support, you are welcome to reach out.
So, let’s give a big cheer for the 25 years of great community service Kids Help Phone has provided to young people. Share this information and get it into the hands of our children so they know to reach out to Kids Help Phone in any moment of crisis or need. They will help our children to find the strength within themselves to work through it and take the next step.