CANDY ALLAN: Tell kids how to find help

A parent’s worst nightmares revolve around harm to or loss of their child. While I don’t know for a fact, I’d imagine the agony increases exponentially if that harm comes at the child’s own hand.

Within the first few moments after my eldest child was born I knew with absolute certainty I could do whatever I had to in order to protect him. Before that day, I wondered if I could willingly put myself in danger or cause harm to another person in order to protect someone. Since that day, I understand completely that I not only am capable, but I wouldn’t even think about it.

But part of parenting is watching your kids leave your protection. And at a certain point in their lives, I’m told, kids are less receptive to their parents than to nearly anyone else.

So who can kids call if they don’t feel they can reach out to their parents? Or, worse yet, what if their parents are the ones causing the pain?

A woman named Nancy Lublin founded the Crisis Text Line in 2013 as a way for teens to reach out and receive help immediately. I learned about CTL and Lublin’s work in an article in a recent edition of Glamour.

CTL is available to help with any number of problems young people face. Drugs, physical abuse, sexual abuse, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, you name it, they deal with it.

All someone has to do to reach a counselor is send a text about the problem they’re facing to 741741. A counselor will respond. It’s available 24/7 and it’s anonymous — counselors only know what the people texting in tell them.

Texting is a preferred form of communication for young people. If you don’t believe me, ask any parent of a teen … or even a younger 20-something. They’d generally much rather text you than talk to you.

Texting can be done confidentially in a crowded room, something that’s simply not possible with a traditional phone call.

The hotline is available around the clock. And it’s working. The Glamour story began with an anecdote about a teen feeling suicidal who reached out for help, and the counselor from CTL was able to alert emergency personnel while texting with the girl. Later, CTL personnel got a message from the girl’s mother saying they were on their way to the hospital.

The mom was in the house while the girl was texting and working toward ending it all. The mom was IN THE HOUSE with the girl and had no idea. Talk about your worst nightmare as a parent.

My kids don’t have cell phones. I don’t think any of their friends face the kinds of problems that would send a youth to text CTL. But I can’t know that for sure.

So I wanted to share this hotline with you. When my kids have a way to text, I’ll be sharing it with them. Because while I never want to be the mother who’s in the house and not aware of what was happening, I NEVER want to be the mother who was in the house with the girl who DIDN’T know about this hotline and DIDN’T reach out.

If my kids don’t feel like they can talk to me, as much as that thought hurts, I still want them to know there’s a way for them to reach out. And I want that same thing for your kids.

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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