When I first became a mother that fear set in even more! I had a Samoan/Tongan/Māori son! Our highest demographic who are killing themselves are young, pacific island and Māori males! And here I have just brought another one into this world! I knew that I needed to do something now for my son so that he hopefully doesn't become a statistic. But how? And what?
My husband and I decided to try and be as open and honest with our children as possible. What I learnt from friends with teenagers and through my work with young people is that around the age of 14-16, our young people can start to create a shell around them. Especially keeping out people they don't trust and that can sometimes include their parents.
How can I ensure that my teenager still wants to talk to me at age 15? Well we figured, we can't start at 15, we have to start from day dot. All those annoying questions, all those, but why mum? But how mum? I don't geddit it mum? Questions. Those questions actually need to be given the space to be answered! Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of times where I fail at this! But I try my hardest to breathe and go back and say, "sorry son, what was your 100th question for the day again?"
We now have 3 children, 2 boys and a girl, so as you can imagine, that is a lot of questions and answers. Unfortunately our children aren't allowed much access to 'Doctor Google' yet, so we're stuck being the main source for questions! But that's absolutely fine and is exactly what we want. We've had questions like "does that lady (randomly walking on the street) have children at home"? To, "how are babies made?" Now that was a fun one! We used the, men have sperm, woman have eggs, when they come together it creates a baby! That worked fine for now, have slightly side stepped the finer details for now lol, but the day is coming very soon!!!
Anyway, there is a point to my rambling! And the point is that sometimes in life we actually do have to throw certain taboos and ways of thinking out the window. For example, my oldest niece got her period, and we decided that instead of pretending that she wasn't going through it, we'd talk to our, then 9 year old son about. Funnily enough, he took it well, and thought it was unfair that only girls had to go through it!
So if my 4yr old, 8yr old and 10yr old, can't come to me with all life's questions now, then why would they come to me as a 15 yr old with questions?
Now obviously I'm still an experiment in the making, and I will have to come back to you in 5 years time to see the results! But, how about we start a culture where we talk openly and honestly everyday. Where we don't put filters on our lives to make them seem so much more beautiful than they appear to be. Where we don't take a million selfies just to get that one perfect shot to present ourselves to the world with. What if we showed the world our real selves. Me, the sometimes very stressed out and screaming mother and wife! My house, that is only ever perfectly clean for approx. half a day, and that's only if no one steps foot in it!
What if we as youth leaders and as ministers shared more of our own testimonies with our young people and congregations. Showed people that we are real, that we have flaws, that we have been where they have been and actually would love to hear of some of their struggles, not just their triumphs. Try not to live your life vicariously through social media, don't compare yourself to that mother with the perfect looking children or that friend having fun on a tropical island paradise (Remember there are mosquitoes on tropical islands) Yes project your best self, but also project your true self. Save the judgement for court and be the person that people can come to, to ask anything. Don't wait till you're a 'qualified person' or till your 'older'. Start the open conversations now with those in your life. Let's create a culture that surrounds our people with love, hope, understanding and acceptance, and pray that through this we can show all those around us that they are worthy and that there is a purpose for them in this world.
Some Questions to Consider
- Who are the 'doctor google' figures in your life? The people you would turn to for guidance and wisdom?
- Who are the people in your life that come to you for guidance and wisdom? How approachable and available do you make yourself to others who need to talk?
- What kind of person do you 'project' to the world? Is it someone in line with Gods will in mind?
- Who are some people know to me that may need prayer over this same topic?
by Siu Williams-Lemi | CSI Regional Coordinator