Hope: do kids these days have enough of it?

Kids Help Phone professional counsellors talk about what we can do to make sure there's enough hope to go around.

TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2012 /CNW/ - Many young people who contact Kids Help Phone often start out by saying, "I'm feeling hopeless."

But once Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors start talking to young people about the problems they're struggling with, they often find that what these kids are experiencing are more related to feelings of "powerlessness." - feeling overwhelmed and not sure what steps they can take to cope with the situation.

This perceived inability to influence the outcome is what they are struggling with. Hope is what brings them to Kids Help Phone because the kids, teens and young adults who reach out to the youth counselling service have the expectation that it will help.

Alain Johnson, Clinical Director, Kids Help Phone, says that kids today are feeling the pressure to succeed, to compete, to conform. Pressures are felt in every layer of their lives including school, sports, extra-curricular activities, parental and societal expectations. And when those pressures exceed the young people's ability to cope, they trigger negative emotions and may negatively affect mental health.

"For young people, especially teenagers, goals and problems can seem too big, and solutions seem too far out of reach," Johnson says. "Teens tend to see things as black and white - everything can be great until a problem arises, and then their world can feel like it's crashing down.

"There are layers to solving problems and reaching goals. When we help young people see the small steps they can take to address them, they start to feel empowered again."

Part of coping with many of life's situations involves reaching out to others for support.  We all struggle, and we all need help sometimes - but sometimes we also need to be reminded that it's okay to ask for it.

Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, a sign of hope. Reminding a young person of that and letting them know that you are there for them no matter what can help them to build trust, self-esteem, and resiliency.

Trusted adults - parents, teachers, coaches, for example - can all help to empower young people and give them hope. If a young person comes to you with a problem, remind them that asking for help is a sign of strength.

"Often parents think that they have to have a solution at their fingertips," Johnson says. "Perfect answers aren't always what's needed; sometimes hope can be enough. Hope can diffuse a situation that otherwise seems overwhelming."

One way of providing young people with hope is to listen to them, without interrupting.  Just listening can help a young person to feel understood and reinforce the sense that they are not alone in whatever they may be coping with.

Why Kids Help Phone wants to talk about hope

  • According to the World Health Organization, October 10 is World Mental Health Day; a day to promote open discussion of mental and emotional health concerns, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services.
  • 100% of young people will experience sadness, frustration, grief, and stress. How they are supported is what counts.

  • About 25% of counselling requests Kids Help Phone receives are from young people who are dealing with significant mental health struggles.

  • Hope is arguably the most influential of all emotions. It gets us through stressful times and supports overall well-being.

  • Evidence tells us that well-being is becoming more elusive, partly because of unrealistic or outdated expectations and pervasive uncertainty about the future.

  • The pressure to perform, to succeed against all odds, to make the right choices, to save face or to prove their worth in the eyes of others are common reasons kids, teens and young adults reach out to Kids Help Phone.

    Having strong support networks, including trusted adults, who can "do hope" with the young people in their lives is important. Here are a few tips from Kids Help Phone professional counsellors that can help.

  • Be hopeful for the young people in your lives. When you believe in young people, it helps them to believe in themselves.  An adult's own outlook influences the youth around them. 

  • Encourage independence. When young people are able to take an active role in making decisions that affect them, they learn that they have some control over their environment. In this way, having choices - and the opportunity to try, fail, and try again - teaches kids, teens and young adults how to be hopeful.

  • Focus on strengths and skills. When a child is struggling, pointing out the things they are doing well can help them to become hopeful that they will be able to deal successfully with future challenges.

About Kids Help Phone

Since 1989, Kids Help Phone has been Canada's leading online and phone counselling service for youth. It's free, it's anonymous and confidential, and it's available any time of the day or night, 365 days a year in English and in French.  Professional counsellors support the mental health and well-being of young people, ages five to 20, by providing one-on-one counselling, information and resources.  As a community-based national charity, Kids Help Phone receives no core government funding and relies on community and corporate support to fund its essential and vital service.

To learn more about Kids Help Phone, please visit www.kidshelpphone.ca.

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SOURCE: Kids Help Phone

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