Appreciating our Youth Everyday

An open letter to parents

Submitted to the Bennington County Prescription Drug Task Force for distribution to parents in Bennington County

Children are amazing, aren’t they? As adults, it warms the heart to recall their many accomplishments throughout their lifespan, beginning with their first steps and carrying on through to high school graduation. Along the timeline, we mentally catalog their successes like getting that first “A” and scoring a point in a game, delivering that pivotal line in a school play or mastering their public recital.

There are many obvious points for celebration in a kid’s life, yet so many other important and powerful opportunities often pass by without mention. While winning a science fair is a substantial feat worthy of accolades, parents feel an equal amount of pride at watching their child help an elderly person with their groceries or by making a lemonade stand to raise money for causes close to their heart.  As children learn through modeling, the omission of those everyday celebrations may inadvertently teach children that only the most powerful moments are of the most importance.  The unintended result of this may be that kids who do not make the pages of the paper or are granted awards for their work feel invisible in spite of the wonderful things they may do on a daily basis.

For some youth, pain of addiction begins with a sense of isolation, a feeling that they are not valued and that as individuals, they do not matter to our communities. If youth do not feel valued, they may in turn have a lower self-esteem. The use of harmful substances is often sought as a way to fill that void and to mimic the naturally powerful feelings that being valued can produce. So what can be done to correct this?

Quite simply, it begins with listening. Kids have incredible thoughts and insights that are only shared if they are given an opportunity to do so.  Eating meals together as a family is a great place to begin a conversation about substance abuse. Ask your kids about drugs and alcohol and allow them the space to ask questions to you about it. As a family, your positivity and encouragement becomes multiplied as a group when everyone joins in the celebration.

Ask your kids about some the ways they helped others during their day. It could be as simple as helping a friend carry their books, assisting a teacher in class or even recycling items from their lunch. Take a real interest, celebrate and praise their work. Have them share examples of acts of kindness by other youth they may have witnessed. And certainly, discuss the accomplishments of kids that make the news and draw parallels from their stories to the great work of your own children.

A special opportunity to celebrate our youth is on April 27th, 2014. This year marks the second anniversary of Vermont Youth Appreciation Day, a state designated day to celebrate all of the great things our youth give to our state. We encourage you to participate in any local events regarding this day or in your own special way as a way to show our kids just how amazing they really are.

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