5 Action Steps To Prevent Youth Suicide

Suicide is a leading cause of death in youth ages 10 – 24. Each day in the United States, there are an average of over 3,041 suicide attempts made by young people in grades 9 – 12. These are staggering statistics that can be prevented.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that we address the ‘whole’ child, their social and emotional well-being and this learning begins at home. “Family life is our first school for emotional learning,” states Daniel Goleman, the author of the groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence. Through family life “we learn how to feel about ourselves and how others will react to our feelings; how to think about these feelings and what choices we have in reacting; how to read and express hopes and fears.”

Social and emotional learning is a process which allows children to acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Social and emotional learning is a powerful way to help children become healthy, caring, and competent.

If children learn to express emotions constructively and engage in caring and respectful relationships before and while they are in their lower elementary grades, they are more likely to avoid depression, violence, and other serious mental health problems as they grow older.

Here are the 5 key skills social-emotional learning develops:

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness involves understanding one’s own emotions, personal goals, and values. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations, having positive mindsets, and possessing a well-grounded sense of self-efficacy and optimism. High levels of self-awareness require the ability to recognize how thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected.

Self-Management

Self-management requires skills and attitudes that facilitate the ability to regulate one’s own emotions and behaviors. This includes the ability to delay gratification, manage stress, control impulses, and persevere through challenges in order to achieve personal and educational goals.

Social Awareness

Social awareness involves the ability to understand, empathize, and feel compassion for those with different backgrounds or cultures. It also involves understanding social norms for behavior and recognizing family, school, and community resources and supports.

Relationship Skills

Relationship skills help students establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships, and to act in accordance with social norms. These skills involve communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking help when it is needed.

Responsible Decision Making

Responsible decision-making involves learning how to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse settings. It requires the ability to consider ethical standards, safety concerns, accurate behavioral norms for risky behaviors, the health and well-being of self and others, and to make a realistic evaluation of various actions’ consequences.

Here are 5 ways you can strengthen your child’s social-emotional well-being:

1. Create a trusting, safe connection with your child.

Spend time with them and talk about anything that comes to their mind. Offering a safe space or time for children to talk to you assures them that you care. Ask children how they feel. When you ask how your child feels, the message is that feelings matter and you care. Then, stay open to listening without judgment so they know you are a safe space for them to express themselves. Acknowledging and exploring their feelings help children feel understood.

2. Give children choices and respect their wishes.

When children have an opportunity to make choices, they learn essential problem-solving skills. Giving children ways to express preferences and make decisions shows that their ideas and feelings matter. Rather than helping solve a challenge, offer encouragement and help them believe in themselves. Ask questions or make statements that allow your child to find their own answers. It can be as simple as ‘I wonder what you’ll do’ or “What do you think you can do in this situation?” Positive encouragement from a parent can go a long way in building your child’s self-esteem and sense of optimism.

3. Avoid humiliating or mocking your child.

This behavior can be damaging and lead to a lack of self-confidence and, in turn, problems with schoolwork, illness, and trouble getting along with friends. Unfair criticism and sarcasm also hurts the bond of trust between children and parents. Be mindful of how you speak to your children. Give them the room to make mistakes as they learn new skills.

4. Create a ‘kind identity”.

Ask children to reflect. If you notice them being empathetic towards another child who is upset, ask your child to talk about what they were feeling and why they behaved in the way that they did. Be sure to encourage this type of behavior by saying, “I liked how you were kind to Billy when he was feeling sad.”

5. Teach healthy ways to express, process and manage emotions.

There are many effective techniques and exercises. Find the ones that connect with you and your child. The goal is to help your child promote healthy expressions of their emotions.

Mindfulness exercises, such as guided breathing, stretching, and movement activities, can be extremely beneficial.

Reflective activities, like journaling or meditation, where children sit still while focusing on becoming aware of their surroundings and posture, can help them unpack their emotions and feelings.

Listening to music or creating art can help relieve stress and strengthen relaxation. Research shows the arts promote creativity, social development, personality adjustment, and self-worth. You can learn more about Free2Luv’s art empowerment programs, the Free2BeME Project here.

The goal of social-emotional learning is to help youth develop more positive attitudes toward themselves and others, enhance self-efficacy, confidence, persistence, empathy, and connection, and develop a strong sense of purpose.

It is vital for families, communities, and schools to work together to raise confident, empowered, and balanced children. It takes a village to minimize bullying and teen suicide and begins with each of us modeling kindness, acceptance, inclusion, and healthy emotional expression. Let us start today.

5 Action Steps To Prevent Youth Suicide 2018-06-22T01:28:03+00:00

Team Paws Stands Up to Bullying with Free2Luv

Find out how one third grade class promotes kindness and aims to prevent bullying every day.

These third graders along with their caring teacher are changing the everyday dialogue to focus on positivity and eliminate bullying inside this Michigan classroom. Known as Team Paws, this inspirational group is getting high marks for their mission to stop bullying one day at a time.

Here is what their teacher said.

I explained to the kids that I was excited to begin our day because our Free2Luv swag had arrived. It was the perfect opportunity for us to recite the kindness pledge and make a promise to each other and ourselves to be good friends, use our words for good, to take a stand against bullying, and to not be a bystander if bullying was happening.

Every morning we begin our day with a class meeting which involves reciting positive self-affirmations. That’s because one of our classroom rules is we only say kind words to ourselves, even the words we say inside our brains, because self-love matters.

These affirmations go like this; I am kind, I am a good friend, people like me, my teacher loves me, I love me, I matter, I am smart, I’m good at math, I do my best, and so on.

With this, I request the kids to set a daily goal before they return to their seats to start their morning work. That goal might be to sit by someone who’s alone at lunch, to give a compliment to someone, or smile at someone in the hallway.

This has made a difference in our classroom climate. I have made it my goal to create a classroom climate that focuses on the importance of social and emotional learning. My kids are learning how to manage their emotions, rather than how to cope with them.

It’s my goal for all my kids to feel safe, seen, heard, and celebrated every day.

I can do this because I know my kids. My kids are different and unique from each other, but there is something about every one of them that I love and admire.

When Free2Luv reached out to me to participate in their initiative, I knew it was perfect for Team Paws. During a discussion one of my kids made a great point; he said he was happy to take this pledge because as a member of Team Paws, he believes he and his classmates have grown in kindness this past school year. Continuing, he said we hardly ever argue, and we care about each other. Team Paws changed the way he feels about kindness in general.

The kids wanted to talk about the importance of being a good friend and standing up for victims of bullying. It was their idea to create posters to hang around the school and on our classroom door to educate the other kids in the school.

Want to join Team Paws? Take Free2Luv’s kindness pledge and be an advocate for kindness. Change begins with each of us.

Team Paws Stands Up to Bullying with Free2Luv 2018-03-05T23:43:26+00:00

Bullied to Brave … The Story of Youth Empowerment Nonprofit Free2Luv

Have you ever had a life-defining moment? Mine came in 2011 with the sudden passing of my young mother from pancreatic cancer. I was faced with how short life can be and questioned whether I was fulfilling my life purpose. I kept hearing about youth feeling like they had nowhere to turn, hurting themselves, and even taking their own lives. My dream I had acquired at a very young age of being an advocate for youth, resurfaced.

With my mother’s loss of life and young people taking their lives because of not feeling accepted, I felt driven to reach as many young people as possible. Furthermore, to let them know their life matters and is worth living and to empower them to know others’ words or actions don’t define them. I have since made it my life’s mission to help kids feel safe, heard, and valued, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. I rolled up my sleeves and armed with love, passion, and determination, my family and I founded Free2Luv®. Free2Luv is a youth empowerment nonprofit inspiring hope in youth who are often marginalized, bullied, and afforded little opportunity to thrive and prosper, including LGBTQ youth.

Behind every issue, whether it’s bullying, self-harm or self-loathing, are low self-esteem and a lack of self-love. We wanted our organization name to be a word of empowerment. The name Free2Luv encompasses loving yourself first, loving others and being free to love whoever you desire.

From personal experience, I know the value of having one other person in your corner, fighting your fight with you and supporting you fully. It can be the thing that pulls you out of your circumstance and makes the difference for a prosperous life. Sometimes that difference is between living and dying. Other times it’s standing up for a stranger who you see being bullied instead of turning away in apathy. In addition to using our own voices to impact others, we mentor youth to raise their voices in compassion and love. That’s what truly sets us apart.

One of the cornerstones of our organization and one we are incredibly proud of is our youth advocacy/mentorship program. We assist youth in finding their authentic voice and expression, which in turn builds their self-esteem and confidence. What happens from there is magic. Advocates inspire other youth in their community as they share the importance of bullying prevention, spread kindness, and celebrate individuality. By providing youth continual support, we are growing leaders and game changers who are making a powerful and positive impact in their communities, inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting their peers. It’s a dynamic ripple effect of empowerment and connection.

There’s nothing like holding hands with young people who build confidence and engage in inclusive conversations. When youth learn to express themselves more fully, they share their hearts and are open-minded with their peers. It is the most rewarding and profound work we have done in our lives, and it is a gift to witness the growth of these beautiful individuals who are our future. Teaching leadership, innovation, and compassion is critical to our society’s future. When we raise authentic, confident, and empowered individuals, we are building a strong future for all youth. Therefore, we will continue to make this our life’s work and mission. Above all, we aspire to be leaders who inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

Bullied to Brave … The Story of Youth Empowerment Nonprofit Free2Luv 2018-01-29T15:52:33+00:00

Uniting for Good On and Off the Field

We’re super proud to be standing with the Kent Meridian Royals, beautiful young gamechangers, to ROCK LUV and stand up to bullying. This is our 3rd annual bullying prevention campaign with this amazing high school and this year, the Tahoma Bears Cheer and Football team joined forces to unite for GOOD on and off the field, showing true sportsmanship. And the good doesn’t stop here – they’ve brought kindness to the campus where they’re having conversations, participating in the Free2BeME art project, and fundraising to spread more LUV. Together, we are stronger.

Uniting for Good On and Off the Field 2018-02-22T21:11:25+00:00

What do you #StandFirm for?

We have an awesome way to give back to kids suffering from bullying while standing firm for what you believe in!  We’re in.  Are you?  We want to know what YOU stand firm for!  Simply snap a pic or create a short video letting the world know what you STAND FIRM for.

Here’s how …

We’re super excited to be partnering with Algenist, an award-winning skincare brand, for the #StandFirm campaign.   The mantra is in perfect alignment with our mission:

We believe in unwavering principles.
Only you dictate what you believe in – own it.
Stay strong in your values, #StandFirm for your beliefs.

Algenist is offering customers 10% off with a 10% donation to Free2Luv® with the purchase of Elevate Advanced Lift Contouring Cream at www.algenist.com from May 15 through May 30 with promo code FREE2LUV.

PRINT your SIGN HERE and we’ll see you on social ➽ #STANDFIRM SIGN

What do you #StandFirm for? 2018-02-22T21:13:10+00:00

Musician Maddy Vance Writes Anti-bullying Anthem for Free2Luv

With over 50 songs under her belt, meet our amazing Youth Advocate, Maddy Vance, 15 year old musician, singer and prolific songwriter.  After experiencing bullying and the feeling of isolation, Maddy wrote ‘Crashing Down’, a beautiful anti-bullying empowerment anthem, and donated the song to Free2LUV and our beautiful community to inspire and empower youth! We’re super proud to be standing with her to make a difference.

Musician Maddy Vance Writes Anti-bullying Anthem for Free2Luv 2018-03-05T17:02:14+00:00