Battles

By Our Kids Network Milton Hub Coordinator

“Be kind to everyone. You don’t know what battles they’re fighting.” is paraphrased from a quote written by Scottish author Ian MacLaren in 1897. It still rings true today and never more than when we are working with adolescents. Life is hard enough through this period of development, but these days youth contend with social media and the tremendous impact that it has on their lives. School yard bullies wait for them now via social media. Too often home is no longer a safe place to hide at the end of the day. Keyboard stalkers are there at every click to criticize and bully. The pressure is on to fit in and get noticed by the number of likes and views on hundreds of social media and gaming platforms. Youth struggle to be “unique” in a world where rich media celebrities and music icons promote unattainable luxury lifestyles and model shallow, destructive behavior.

The competition to get into a post-secondary school and find a good job is substantially more stressful now than it was even fifteen years ago. And both families and young people are bearing the financial burden of higher education.

Adults are more stressed these days for their own reasons, and that affects the young people around them. All of this adds up to much higher rates of youth struggling with depression and anxiety at younger and younger ages.

“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”

Imagine yourself as a youth: you arrive at school and not one adult smiles as you walk in the door. Not one adult addresses you by your name or asks how your morning is going. Not one adult takes an interest in you, guides you, or supports you. No one seems to see or care about the battles you’re fighting. They are preoccupied with imposing their own agendas on you, and might criticize you if you can’t follow through. You would certainly feel disheartened and hopeless, and overwhelmed. The pressure would seem unbearable. Then you arrive home and encounter stressed parents, who may be dealing with the needs of their own elderly parents and have no time for yours. When you imagine yourself in this situation, it’s easy to understand how anxiety and hopelessness can build up.

“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”

Now let’s think about this quote when we look at interacting with young people, including our own children. Let’s be the adults that smile when a youth walks into the room. Let’s make an effort to know their names and learn something about them. Let’s guide them and always support them. We’ll ask them how they’re doing and, if we’re concerned that they may not be doing well, we’ll ask them privately and find out how we can help.
It’s possible that you may be the only person in a young person’s day that reaches out to them, praises them, and sees the good in them. Let’s model how to be caring, empathetic and supportive for all youth that we encounter each day.

Teacher helping a troubled student

“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”

When we meet youth that may need more support than we can offer, we want to be able to provide them with information about professional supports in the community. It’s important for us to know where to find information or who to ask for the appropriate supports so we can respond quickly to their needs. The Our Kids Network website is an excellent knowledge-building resource that includes Developmental Assets and Relationships First, found in the Building Relationships section. Try Halton iparent for information on Halton-based parenting programs and information.

Police constable talking and laughbing with teenager.

Most of all, remember, the easiest way to make a connection – smile and simply ask how they’re doing today.