The WOW Coalition and Youth4Youth are working with 8th graders at multiple local schools helping youth develop social-emotional life skills. The program called THRIVE, is a resiliency program designed to empower teens with knowledge and tools to divert high-risk behavior and thrive in today’s culture. Today’s lesson was “Identifying Emotions,” teaching youth how to name what emotion(s) they are feeling, connecting triggers to those emotions, and identify how to regulate/cope with those emotions. We talked about maintaining a healthy support system (Family, Friends, and Professional). One student mentioned they do not have anyone they can go to for support. This student’s belief that they do not have anyone to turn to in a time of need alarmed me and got me thinking a little deeper about how vital the THRIVE program is for teens.
How scary would it be to think that you have no family or friends you can count on in times of need? I cannot imagine the loneliness one would feel, which over time would lead to hopelessness. If a child has no one there to catch them when they are falling, how far will they fall? Unfortunately, this is where many youth start using substances like alcohol or drugs to escape their current reality or ease their pain—resulting in a tragic expression of an unmet need. Having a support system in place is essential for the growth children need to be the best version of themselves—a support system to help them understand and healthily deal with emotions.
Here is what we know; research shows it only takes one caring adult in a child or teen’s life to make all the difference. Anyone can be a caring adult, a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or neighbor. As a counselor, I always ask youth, who is that one caring adult in your life? I have known many youths who mention the lunchroom ladies at school, teachers, school custodial staff as their lifeline. Sometimes, just knowing you heard me, someone understands me, someone cares about me, makes all the difference.
As a positive influence in a child’s life, I challenge you to be that support system in their lives. This is not about saying, “if you ever need to talk, let me know.” It is about taking a proactive approach to developing a relationship that allows truthful communication without receiving criticism about how they feel. If we encourage the child in our lives to acknowledge and learn to regulate their emotions, helping them learn how to respond rather than react to the triggers in their life, you will be the one to catch them when they are falling. Whatever your path in life, know you can make a difference, and most of the time, you will never know. Are you the one to catch me?
Author Joe Tracey is Youth4Youth Program Director and member of the WOW Coalition. This prevention association promotes safe and healthy choices and responds to problems caused by alcohol, marijuana, and Rx abuse by implementing strategies to prevent and reduce youth substance use. For additional information, visit www.wowcoalition.org or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.