In Your Corner: What kids need these days…

Today I was asked by a gentleman who works with Boy Scouts to speak to his group of scout leaders about what kids seem to need these days, so that they might better serve them, and continue to attract volunteers and boys to scouts.

The truth is that kids’ basic needs haven’t changed. We as humans still need the same kinds of things. What has changed is how kids fulfill their needs.

We all need to get our physical needs taken care of. We need good air, food and water; protection from the elements, diseases and predators.

We need to be touched and cuddled and hugged. We need our emotional needs taken care of.

We need to be heard. We need to feel that others will be sensitive to how we will feel if they do or say things to us.

We need to feel that we belong to a group of people who appreciate us, and accept us. We need to feel that we matter to others, and are close to them. We need to know that they will support us if we get into difficulty.

We need to be able to trust others, that they will be honest with us, and keep their promises to us. And we want them to trust us, and be happy with us.

We need respect, and want our families and friends to consider our thoughts and feelings when they make decisions.

We need to feel good about ourselves. At least one person needs to love us unconditionally, so that we can express our authentic, true beings, and create lives for ourselves that express that part of us. Living up to others’ expectations can be challenging, and can lead to burnout.

We need to play, have fun and laugh. We need to be inspired, and free to worship our creator in the way closest to our hearts and souls.

We need peace and some order in our lives. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to think that anyone of any age could walk anywhere at any time and be safe? Now that’s peace.

As we get older, we need to feel that we are enriching our world in positive ways, and that our lives will make a difference. We want to be remembered fondly when we’re gone.

Babies and young ones depend entirely upon family and caregivers to fulfill these needs. Teachers, coaches and youth group leaders enrich the youth by offering more support, appreciation and guidance.

But if the family and close community don’t help the youth fulfill these needs, youth will form their own groups, clicks and gangs that are totally loyal to each other. They will have each other’s backs, and will give each other the support, respect, and trust that they crave.

Kids who don’t get enough attention can now go into cyberspace and create new realities, and get that attention.

It takes time to have a relationship with a child that proves to the child that he matters to his family.

Some parents struggle with this. Parents work long hours to pay the bills. Some families are broken.

Drug abuse can cause the parents to become less aware of their children’s needs, and more focused on themselves. The child may not get his or her needs met, and how will that voice be heard?

If we want youth to be enthusiastic about what we are offering them, we have to ensure that what we are offering is meeting their needs. Ask them.

We can ask ourselves if we are really caring for them, respecting them, encouraging them, and listening to them.

It’s been my experience in working with all kinds of kids that they will open up to an adult if they believe that the adult really cares about them, is truly listening to them, and respects their opinions. It doesn’t mean that one has to necessarily do what the child is asking one to do.

Rather, the adult can ask thoughtful questions to lead the youth to figure out what steps he can take on his own to help create what he wants to happen, and then offer support.

In repeated studies, mentors for children at risk seem to have the most positive effect on helping them turn their lives around. Kaua‘i is blessed to have many loving tutus, uncles and aunties who mentor our youth.

May we always have an abundance of caring for our kids. Even if one can’t see an immediate result, a person who works with a child in a caring way has planted a seed which will almost always bear fruit at some point in the future.

“In Your Corner” is a phrase that means support. Its origin comes from boxing. In between rounds, the boxer retires to his corner, and a group of people coach him, give him medical help and water, and cheer him on.

Several adults have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support in the boxing ring of life!

They are Catherine Stovall, community response specialist; Edmund Acoba, Public Defender; Craig DeCosta, county Prosecuting Attorney; Officer Paul Applegate, Kaua‘i Police Department; Daniel Hamada, Superintendent of Schools; and Jill Yoshimatsu, Director of the DOE Mokihana program,

• Annaleah Atkinson is the Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i. She can be reached at aatkinson@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi Street, Lihu‘e, Hawai‘i, 96766.

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