Saving your teenager

In 2016 while working as a journalist, I spent some time interviewing a Man of Māori descent.

He was the facilitator of a seminar about suicide prevention.

As we talked, I could hear his soft voice resonate with anguish about the number of young people who had met with no hope and unfortunately took their own lives.

We talked for ages about life, about heartache, about death and we talked about statistics.

But then I heard the voice of wisdom come through when he mentioned there was one simple thing we could do.

Talk to our young people, talk to them about history, talk about life, especially how to celebrate and how to manage grief.

He suggested young people need to have relationship training, so often he said marriages today sometimes do not last beyond the first disagreement.

The best place they are going to learn about how to conduct a relationship is from their parents.

If they see mum and dad showing each other respect, then children are likely to follow your example.

One of the concerns he mentioned revolved around communication or should it be the lack of it.

Oddly in today’s overloaded communication age we have stopped speaking to one another.

Young people sit in the same room and communicate using their phones using abbreviated language.

I had a friend who told me he was considering who he could invite around to his place to look at their phones.

Our kids no longer know how to conduct a conversation.

He made the point using this example

Boy meets girl online, they agree to meet, they run out of conversation within 5-7 minutes and so what’s next?

They have sex and then that’s it.

Then they break up.

I know that may sound simplistic but it’s true and kids don’t know or have never experienced a relationship breakdown

And this is one of the biggest contributors to the NZ suicide rate.

If you’re a parent think back and remember how devastated, you felt when your boy or girlfriend dumped you.

Some children may just shrug their shoulders and can say: Whatever” and move on.

But what of those who can’t, what happens to them and more, the question of who helps them with their feelings of rejection.

We in New Zealand never teach our children this part of relationships.

Personally, I was told that there were plenty of other fish in the sea.

But that wasn’t the answer I was looking for when I had such feelings of rejection.

Can you see what this wise man was saying was “we need to teach our children not just about love, but also how to deal with the fall out.”

Alongside rejection, our children and some adults need to learn about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not easy; we all need to be taught what forgiveness is.

I asked him who he would suggest would undertake relationship training, preparation for a co-existence with a member of the other sex.

He suggested the schools should add it to their curriculum.

I asked what about parental responsibility?

He agreed this is where it should happen, but like everything else, parental responsibility is left up to someone else.

He says it’s difficult for parents to instruct their children on anything, simply because the children follow the parents’ lead.

“Most parents today and kids all have their heads down, not because they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

“No, it’s because they are busy looking at their electronic devices.”

It is not the responsibility of the state or anyone else to bring up your children – it is you.

I found this man-to be very intuitive, one suspects he may have some insights to what is written in the Bible.

Exodus 18:20

(Show your children) the way they are to live and how they are to behave.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.

 Teach them to your children and to their children after them

Deuteronomy 11:19

Teach (Gods laws, but also life skills) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

“I am convinced that every effort must be made in childhood to teach the young to use their own minds. For one thing is sure: If they don’t make up their minds, someone will do it for them.”

Yes, it’s your responsibility to ensure your children are equipped for life. Do not wait for this government to teach them about life.

I had this conversation six years ago and have looked at this caring openly and transparent government response.

It has been to change the name of what it is, suicide to self-harm.

Then, like a lot of other things, they no longer report them.

They bury their heads in the sand along with their growing suicide statistics while we bury our children.

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