LIHUE — Marion Paul wants adults to say a friendly hello to youth.
“That simple thing could make a big difference,” she said. “Instead of saying, ‘Don’t skateboard in front of my shop,’ you’re saying, ‘Hey, how are you?’ Big difference, right? It’s the cumulative impact of everybody doing a little bit more so it’s not a big burden on any one person.”
Paul is president of Kauai Planning and Action Alliance, which is leading the charge to provide information and resources about increasing youth resiliency through the Kauai Resilience Project.
The committee consists of representatives from education to health, social services and the faith community.
It came about when their research found that 9% of local high school students attempted suicide last year. Paul said something had to be done to address that.
The committee has launched several activities including an action plan, a “Kauai’s Kids Are Your Kids” campaign, and a youth-driven campaign, “You got this.”
Its latest effort offers 10 tips “for building resilience in our young people.”
One of those is simply greeting youth warmly.
“Say aloha to every young person you see,” the outline says. “By simply acknowledging the, you let them know that they matter. It will make their day and yours, too.”
Paul said they want to spread the word to adults on the roles they can play and be a positive influence.
“We’re saying, ‘How can young people build resilience? What’s it going to take?’”
The 10 tips include:
• Limit time on TV and phone.
• Share family meals together
• Listen to your child
• Connect with others through community service.
• Create a favorite activity or hobby with a young person
• Give young people jobs at home, school or in the community.
• Solve problems with young people
• Help kids understand money
• Be a child’s champions
Those behind the Resilience Project plan to “keep blanketing the island with information about why it’s so important to do these tips, why everyone has a role to play to help kids feel connected, to feel wanted and to feel welcome.”
Paul said the tips are based on research and have been proven effective. And, they are things anyone can do.
And she’s not talking just parents, but aunties, uncles, grandparents and friends.
“We want to bring the island aloha back to kids,” she said. “We’re rallying as many adults as possible around kids.”
Recently, KRP convened youth groups in schools. It reviewed the latest research and best practices for building youth resilience, and it interviewed experts in the field.
They are seeing results.
Paul said the Resilience Project is “catching fire” and more people are pitching in and trying to create things for kids to do. More kids are talking about it, organizations are contributing and families are getting involved.
Students at Kapaa High are asking, “How can we do more?” said Nannie Ann Apalla, a member of Keiki to Career.
All of that is progress from when the program kicked off, Paul said, and it’s because more people are becoming aware of the challenges facing youth, and are responding to the call for action.
“That’s what we were hoping for,” she said.
Findings in the 2018 Kauai Youth Report put together by Kauai to Career Kauai:
• 28 percent of high school students reported feeling sad and worthless for at least two weeks at a time in 2017.
• Students who report that they like coming to school has decreased from 70 percent to 50 percent in the last four years.
• Youth that are overweight or obese continues to rise, from 24 percent in 2014 to 30 percent today.
• Screen Time tracks the percentage of students who spend more than five hours per weekday on their “screens” (TV, video games, texting, etc.). The current rate on Kauai is 33.5 percent.
• One of four Kauai high school students reports having been bullied, physically, verbally or electronically.
• One of four Kauai high school students is at increased risk for drug or alcohol abuse.