Our hearts break and we feel so helpless when we hear stories about how our children are ridiculed, abused, called names, taunted OR engage in risky behavior, such as drug use, risky sexual exploration and/or self mutilation.
What can we do about this?!
What can we do to help our kids feel empowered, less vulnerable, and more resilient to either feeling harmed by others or harming themselves?
Studies have shown that the best protection for a child, from a very young age and through adolescence is a strong relationship and attachment with an adult.
One study, involving 90,000 teenagers from 80 different communities in the United States found that teenagers with strong emotional ties to their parents were much less likely to engage in at-risk behavior, including attempted suicide, drug and alcohol use, and violent behavior. The strong emotional attachment these teenagers had with the adults in their lives shielded them from stress and protected their emotional health*.
In his research on what makes young people resilient, noted psychologist Julius Segal concluded that children are less overwhelmed by stress when they feel a strong emotional connection with an adult that they can identify with and from whom they can gather strength*.
When children do not experience this connection and emotional attachment with their parents or other adults in their lives, they are left feeling a need to fill the void of the ‘parent/adult – child relationship’ with that of their peers. But peers are not responsible to care for the emotional needs of their friends (in the best case scenario this may happen, but it is not their responsibility.) The only real and secure source for unconditional love and acceptance that is safe and can be relied upon, is from the child’s parent or other trusted and responsible adult. It is this unconditional love, support, and acceptance that best empowers our children with the emotional armor to guard themselves and make them less vulnerable to abuses by others or themselves.
When I have asked my husband, the director of Crossroads Jerusalem, an organization that helps teens at-risk, what it is that his social workers (whom I refer to as ‘angels’) do to help these teens literally turn their lives around, his answer was this: “We support them, accept them for who they are and for where they are at in their lives, earn their trust, and start from there.”
It is our unconditional love, acceptance, support, and the security of our relationship with our children that will allow us to keep the vital lines of communication open and empower our children with confidence and the tools to navigate their world safely.
Visit back next week to learn more tips and tools for how to create that loving connection and keep those lines of communication open.
I invite you to comment here or message me privately with any questions.