“Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times.” Peggy O’Mara
I share the quote above after spending the last 2 weeks remembering the young man who looked me in the eyes and with his heart on the table asked me if it was possible for someone to change. He had been the abuser and had been abused himself. I have never hoped for change for someone the way I did for him at that moment. I wished for someone to go to him. In those minutes of conversation he had turned into a child that needed comfort, love, and touch. I wished for someone to go to him. I share this story with my intimate thoughts of my own children falling when learning to walk. I went to them. When they fell from the monkey bars, I went to them. There are thousands of times when we each have taken a moment and responded to our children or children in our lives. We hold them up; we empower them to become the best they can be through our words, actions or both. We model for them what positive behaviors are and can be. We teach them when things are not OK or dangerous. No matter the situation, we go to them.
Dating violence happens at the highest rate among people who are 16-24 years of age. Are we going to them? Or are we standing outside the door, hoping they will figure things out? Can we knock on the door and sit with them? Are we holding them up? Can we share a story of our own so they know they’re not alone? Are we listening to their stories and supporting their experience? Can we hold their hand without judgment? Are we answering their questions? Can we give them more resources or options? Do they feel safe talking to us? Can we remind them WE are here? Who are WE? We are the community… educators, parents and adults who know a youth. We can be the example. We can go to them a million times.
If you’re feeling unsure about how to go to the youth in your life; here are a few tips:
- Keep an open Environment- Be available to listen to your children. Give them plenty of opportunities to start a talk and don’t criticize them for having questions.
- Give your Undivided Attention- When the opportunity presents itself; focus your attention on the conversation and your child.
- For Important Topics, Start the Talk- If you think it’s difficult for an adult to raise certain topics, imagine how hard it must be for a youth.
- Talk with Your Youth On Their Level- Use examples from TV, movies, even your own experience when you speak to your youth.
- Talk Often- Frequent chats are a great way of communicating, reinforcing your values and letting your kids know that you are interested in their lives.
- Understand the Questions and Answer Honestly- If you’re not sure what your youth is asking, say so. Once you understand the question, answer honestly and assure your child that you can come up with a solution together.
Tips taken from A Parent’s Handbook, can be downloaded at Love is not Abuse