As parents, we want to believe we know everything that's going on in our children's lives.
But sometimes we don't, either because they don't want us to know or because we just aren't picking up on the signals or warning signs.
This is especially true when kids are struggling or in trouble – in school, in a relationship or with some other problem.
Being a kid is hard. Life changes fast, and children can't always keep up or adapt. Sometimes our children carry a lot more on their shoulders than we know. And it's those times when we don't know, and can't intervene, that can pose the greatest harm or danger to our kids.
That's why Boys Town is encouraging every parent to add the number for the Boys Town National Hotline® (1-800-448-3000) to their child's phone contact list, and to download the app for our website, YourLifeYourVoice.org, to their teen's phone.
Through this "Take the Time, Add the Line" campaign, we hope parents will take a few minutes to put these two valuable resources at their kids' fingertips. By making the call or visiting the website, youngsters who are struggling can immediately connect with a trained counselor who will listen, talk through the issue and provide helpful advice.
"There might be some things kids don't feel comfortable talking to their parents about or they don't want to be a burden," said Kris Hallstrom, National Hotline Manager. "That's where our counselors come in as a non-judgmental person they can talk to."
Hallstrom compared a child's life to a cup of water. Every time something bad happens, the water level in the cup gets a little bit higher. Eventually, the cup can't hold any more water and it overflows.
"We want to help children with that overflowing cup," she said. "By calling the Hotline, counselors can help empty out some of that water for the child and relieve some of the pressure he or she is feeling."
Hallstrom said that while situations where children might be thinking about hurting themselves are top priority, Hotline counselors are there 24/7, year-round to help a child with any concern or worry. (September is National Suicide Prevention Month.)
"We aim to try and help children before a problem turns into a crisis," she said. "Our goal is to empower children to solve their problems in healthy ways and teach them coping skills they can use for the rest of their lives."
The sad truth is that children do experience crises and parents are sometimes the last ones to find out, Hallstrom said. That's why it is so important for parents to talk to their children about what's going on in their lives, especially in today's world where kids can easily become victims of harmful social media messages.
Hallstrom said that one of the most common phrases she hears from parents with a child who has attempted suicide is, "I had no idea."
"Please take the time to talk with your children," she said. "And give them the additional resources of the Boys Town National Hotline and the Your Life Your Voice app. Let your child know there is help out there for anything they are struggling with."
Boys Town National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000