WHEW. There is a LOT to process right now in Barbados and in the world. Death. Pandemic. Suicide. Abuse. Safety. Mental Health. Racism. Youth in crisis. So much to wade through, while still keeping our heads up in a seemingly indefinite global social, political, and health upheaval.
This post has been long coming as there have been so many new stories, developments, and breaking news stories to follow, digest, and compartmentalize for the sake of mental health and preservation of sanity, so bare with me as I seek to highlight and raise awareness about multiple issues, all in one. We have had…
- a 17 year old was found hanging in Bim
- ongoing instances of homicide in Bim
- a 10 years old (allegedly) lost his life at the hands of a 12 years old in Bim
- a 10 years old reportedly fatally wounded his 19 years old sister in Bim
- domestic violence (filmed and not filmed)
- the ever-famous Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and other loved one perished in a helicopter crash
- Chadwick Boseman, who played a key role in Black Panther, a film that symbolically unified Black people from all across the African Diaspora and who elevated African pride, passed from colon cancer after having it for 4 years unbeknownst to most
- thousands have died as a result of Covid-19 and many still are dying
- economies have been halted and crashed as a result of this global pandemic
- Black people are STILL fighting to be seen as human and worthy of equal rights and respect in the U.S. and arguably across the globe
- our young people are taking their own lives and/or are coming up dead
- we are, still, in a global pandemic
Can I say WHEW again? The soul of our world is crying out for help. 2020 has not panned out the way most thought it would have. Regardless, there is a silver lining and the glass, still, is half full.
For the sake of brevity, and given the vision for this platform, this piece will focus on primarily on the youth in crisis aspect of these recent events. As a reminder, Bim has had thematically:
- mental health issues
- lack of conflict resolution
- violence- physical, emotional, etc.
The bigger and overarching question is why, how, and what can we do to decrease the likelihood of incidences centered around what has been listed above? The first step in tackling these youth-centered, complex, issues is two-fold:
1. Acknowledge the problem & implement preventative measures– Acknowledging the problems needing to be fixed whilst implementing preventative measures and programs to prevent future problems and subsequent incidences from occurring. These measures and problem identification, however, must be done in conjunction with the youth and not solely on their behalf (see point #5 below).
2. Assessing/surveying the foundation– this includes what is going on at home. Children, youth, and their behaviors are a direct reflection of what is going on in the home, whether that be positive or negative, and whether parents care to admit it or not. What kind of foundation is the home built on? Love, trust, empathy, care, anger, punishment, fear…? There is a saying that goes- if you want to understand why a child is the way they are, look at the parents and it will make sense. Please note also- just because a parent “tried/did their best” does not equate to their best being what is best for that child. Parenting goes beyond effort and intent…but that is an article and story for another day.
3. Youth voice (this cannot be underscored enough)- how much, if at all, can your child or young person share what they really think (whether agreeing or not) with the parent, family members, etc.? Is their voice being stifled, dismissed, sought out, heard, or elevated? If heard, what is the response when they share their views? Are they honored, a part of decision making processes (as deemed appropriate), or are they to be seen and not heard? Our youth NEED to be seen, and that is done through the recognition of the value they bring to the table by simply being themselves, and by having a safe space (primarily- home, secondarily- school) where their views can be heard, taken into consideration, and more importantly valued.
4. Advocacy- our young people need at least one person who they KNOW beyond the shadow of any doubt, is in their corner and is their biggest supporter and advocate. Studies indicate that all it takes is ONE solid, reliable, consistent, and caring person to be in a child’s life for them to have a positive outcome. How often do we hear youth that are imprisoned saying- “my mentor, parents, sister, brother, or *insert any other person that cared*…was there too much and supported me too often.” It is more often than not, the lack of a support system, or lack of a go-to “person” that results in them seeking solace and a sense of belonging elsewhere. Our young people know that when push comes to shove, there will be someone in their corner when things are going great and when they need to be corrected.
5. Affirmation (this too, cannot be underscored enough)- our young people need and want (though many won’t admit it) to be seen, celebrated, and recognized. Whether it be birthdays, god grades, good behavior, demonstrated responsibility and reliability, improved behavior, improved grades, etc. They want their efforts to be affirmed and validated through recognition because it demonstrates that they, and their efforts, do not go unnoticed. Our youth need to be seen, affirmed, and celebrated, and yes…the teens need it to, more than they will admit. Recognize, praise, acknowledge, celebrate, and affirm them anyway.
If we want to see change in our communities, neighborhoods, schools, and greater society, we have to take a look at the root cause of the suicide attempts, mental health issues, bullying, lack of conflict resolution, and the violence that is being manifests, we have to begin by looking inwardly, by elevating the voice of our youth, by assessing what time of home environment the child/youth is subject to, by affirming our youth when we see growth and improvements whether behavioral, academic, social, emotional, etc. (positive reinforcement works), by recognizing the problem and by implementing measures to prevent problem-related incidences from occurring and from reoccurring, and by being staunch advocates and supporters of our young people when things are going well and especially when they aren’t.
These are a few suggestions that have proven to work time and time again, according to research but also in my over a decade of professional experience working with children, youth, and young adults. What other suggestions do you have for working effectively with our youth? The floor is yours.