Jeff Yalden Shares Messages of Hope and Comfort to Missouri Communities Rocked by Teen Suicides By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker According to teen suicide prevention expert Jeff Yalden, the state of Missouri is going through a really tough time right now when it comes to teen suicide. Three weeks ago, Yalden delivered a comprehensive presentation about teen suicide and mental health in Hannibal, MO, and returned this week to Brookfield and Barnard, MO, two communities that are still reeling from the losses of two irreplaceable young people. BROOKFIELD On Tuesday, March 7, students from five schools in Linn County converged on Brookfield High School to hear Jeff Yalden speak to them on their level, and planting seeds of hope, enthusiasm and perseverance – and what he calls a drive for success in their journey of life. He captivated middle and high-schoolers, urging them to live in the now and what that might mean – the ups and downs, the challenges and the victories wrapped up in the everyday moments that, strung together, make up a life. The assembly was only the beginning for Yalden. He was booked by Angie Wallace, who founded the Taylor Gilpin Wallace Foundation for Suicide Prevention on behalf of her son after her son made the forever decision to take his own life. “Angie brought me in for an all-day event – high school kids, middle school kids, a luncheon with the community and a parent program – very similar to Hannibal,” he said, adding that Wallace and her son Tanner attended the program in Hannibal. The luncheon was attended by student council kids, physicians, the CEO of the local hospital, prominent community members and the executive director of the Missouri Association of Student Councils, Terri Johnson. A young man stood up and shared his story from when he was contemplating suicide. “Really, what this day was about was inviting the community to open their hearts and minds and understand mental health and teen suicide and how real it is,” he said. Following a dinner with the Wallace family, which Jeff cites as amazing, warm and generous, it was off to the parent program – which was set up at Park Baptist Church in Brookfield. The program was live on Wallace’s foundation page, garnering appreciative comments from as far afield as Texas. “We had about 200 community members come out to my parent program,” he said. “We had clear eyes and full hearts. We shed tears. We also laughed and did some reflecting. It was a beautiful day.” BARNARD That night, Yalden drove more than two hours to Barnard, MO, where just four weeks ago, a young lady named Baylee ended her own at just 16. “A lot of teachers and counselors said that Baylee was probably the most popular junior in her class and that she was an old soul,” he said, adding that Baylee’s grandfather also committed suicide, and that they were very close. “Baylee had a disease that was a little bit debilitating, but she learned how to deal with it. She had a great personality – vibrant and ornery. You couldn’t help but to love her, they say.” She took her life on February 5 – Super Bowl Sunday. He spoke at South Nodaway High School and noted that the principal, Darbi Bauman, was actually Baylee’s aunt. Guidance counselor Nick Wray coordinated the event, and Yalden met with all the classes individually before delivering a speech at the full assembly. The school serves grades 7-12 with total enrollment of 84 students. Students from nearby Jefferson High School attended the assembly as well. After a brief visit with faculty and staff, Yalden visited Baylee’s family’s house. “I sat down with mom, dad and her sister and heard the story. I read the suicide letter and saw Baylee’s bedroom,” he said. Yalden also saw Baylee’s scrapbook at school, and helped her fellow students clean out her locker – a poignant moment, but one which gave these young people a sense of closure. At the family home, Yalden was hit with a realization. “For the first time in my life, I think I’d come to realize that not all suicides are a selfish individual act, and there’s so much more to explain how I feel about this situation – but Baylee knew what she was doing. It was a combination of many things, and I think Baylee was just really, really tired.” However, Yalden said this left the community rocked to the core. “There is heartache. Everybody is hurting. They were very concerned with the kids and them moving forward. This is a very tight community,” he said. He closed out the night with a family/community program attended by more than 200 family members. “After leaving that community and hearing the hearts of everybody and the pain in those hearts, I’ll tell you – Baylee was definitely the one girl you would want to meet. To discover more about North America’s Number One Youth Motivational Speaker – visit www.jeffyalden.com. Book Jeff now by calling 800-948-9289.
Top Teen Suicide Prevention Speaker Delivers in Missouri Jeff Yalden Addresses Schools, Parents in Hannibal, MO By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker On Thursday, February 16, North America’s top teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden visited Hannibal, Missouri to talk about teen suicide and suicide prevention – and in this part of the “Show Me State,” he was humbled by the people that showed up. Yalden was booked for a full day – presenting to middle school and high school students and teachers, and closed out the evening with a very well-attended parent community program. Hannibal High School lost a popular high school senior, Hannah, to suicide in 2015, just days before she was to graduate. For the middle school, Yalden spoke on topics such as keeping an open heart and fearlessness – about bullying, respect for self and others – and tried-and-true subjects like attitude and choices. Yalden was struck with the ambiance of Hannibal Middle School as soon as he walked into the foyer. “They are the Pirates, so it screams red and black with a lot of kids’ art in the front – and it’s a very enthusiastic building. That first impression is what you want to see in a school,” he said, noting the palpable sense of school spirit and pride emanating through the halls. “There was a very strong synergy in the building. I got to talk to a bunch of kids and teachers afterward,” he said. Yalden joined more than 20 people for lunch at a local eatery, Fiddlestiks Food & Spirts Company. “We had an incredible lunch with movers and shakers in the community, from the school psychologist to the superintendent [Susan Johnson], the resource officer and people from Hannibal Regional Hospital,” he said, adding that some of the folks from the foundations that brought him in were also on hand. Also, these people included Hannah’s parents and another family from Brookfield, MO who had lost a son to suicide and are brining Jeff to their community on March 7, 2017. The groups and individuals sponsoring Yalden’s visit were the Lois Eleanor Neff Foundation, Justin and Brooke Gibson, The Riedel Foundation, Early Bird Kiwanis of Hannibal, R.O. Parker, Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, Casey’s General Stores and the Hannibal Alliance for Youth Success. Yalden said two families lost a child to suicide in the area within the last two years. Lunch conversation centered on making suicide prevention a priority and learning what they can do to be proactive and keep the Mental Health message moving along – Being Proactive. “It was an amazing conversation about how to sustain this and what we can do differently. It was so incredible to see this community coming together and saying, ‘what do we need to do to make this happen’ and put a plan in place. It was great,” he said. When it was time to present to Hannibal High School students, Jeff was surprised that there were no 12th graders in attendance. “That was a little bit disturbing, because the seniors were the ones that had the suicide when they were just finishing the 10th grade – but we had a great assembly regardless.” A pleasant surprise, however, was the fact that 300 parents attended the parent community program later in the evening at the Hannibal Nutrition Center. “We went two hours, talking about suicide prevention, mental health, signs and symptoms and things to look out for,” he said. “We talked about how to be an effective parent and community citizen and open up your heart about suicide and teen mental health – and know that this is real.” Jeff also talked about teen cell phone use, social media, direct and indirect verbal clues about teen suicide and follow-through. He helped Hannibal High School develop a plan about what to do in the event of a suicide. “This is a model community that is doing great things. I had an incredible visit and am very, very honored,” he said. Missouri is experiencing a rash of suicides right now. Jeff is already booked in Brookfield, MO on March 7, Bernard, MO on March 8 and will speak at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO on March 21. To find out more about Jeff Yalden and suicide prevention, visit www.jeffyalden.com To book Jeff now for your school, organization or event, call 800-948-9289. TAGS: Suicide, Teen Suicide, Copycat Suicide, Anxiety, Attitude, Choices, Depression, Hannibal, Missouri, Educational Speaker, High School Assemblies, Suicide Prevention Speaker, High School Motivational Speaker, High School Speaker, Hannibal High School, Hannibal Middle School, Hannibal School District, Leadership, Hannibal Regional Hospital Mental Health, Hannibal Nutrition Center, Middle School Motivational Speaker, Middle School Speaker, Motivational Speaker for Schools, Teen Mental Health Speaker, Teen Motivational Speaker, Teen Speaker, Youth Motivational Speaker, Suicide Prevention
Top Teen Motivational Speaker on Suicide Prevention
By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Teen Motivational Speaker
What if we knew we could have prevented a friend’s suicide but didn’t do or say anything?Meet Jeff Yalden – Teen Suicide Prevention Crisis Intervention Expert. This video shows Jeff in a community that had 12 teen suicides in one year, including four in six weeks. Jeff is today’s leading authority on suicide prevention and teen mental health awareness. That heartbreaking question is one that has been weighing on the heart of teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden after the suicide of Lincoln High School senior Quai Horton in Des Moines, Iowa on February 7, just a week after Jeff spoke at the school. Another question can be asked in tandem with the first one.
What is the cost of losing a teenager to suicide?As far as Jeff is concerned, the true cost can’t be measured – and tragedies like these tend to have a ripple effect, sending waves of despair, anger, grief and helplessness farther afield than anybody can imagine at the time. But Yalden has long been a proponent of living in the now, and clearly now is all we have. And now is enough. “Be proactive today and do what you can to prevent a suicide from happening, or you will end up reacting and wishing you had done something,” he said. Obviously, this is easier said than done – especially if a person takes their life without any warning or without any signs pointing to his or her intentions. “Many people who commit suicide do so without letting on they are thinking about it or planning it,” said Dr. Michael Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in a 2012 Harvard Health Blog article by Patrick J. Skerrett, former Executive Editor of Harvard Health. At that time, Skerrett wrote that “more than 100 Americans commit suicide every day. It’s the tenth leading cause of death overall; third among 15- to 24-year-olds and fourth among 25-to 44-year-olds.” For teens, suicide is right behind accidents/unintentional injuries and homicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. But most people will at least drop a clue. Suicide is not the answer. Watch Jeff’s video here: In a list of youth suicide facts and myths, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network said that “people who are thinking about suicide usually find some way of communicating their pain to others – often by speaking indirectly about their intentions. Most suicidal people will admit to their feelings if questioned directly.” For teens, social media is often the preferred platform for this pain. This was true in the case of Quai Horton – and this was summed up in Jeff’s blog post on February 9: “What Yalden found the most disturbing about this young man’s suicide was that there were very direct verbal clues on his Facebook page indicating his intentions – and yet nobody said a word about it.” But make no mistake. Somebody saw these clues. Shortly after Jeff posted a video to YouTube about Horton and how sorry he was about the tragedy, the comments started to come in. One person told Yalden to kill himself. Another said he knew Quai was hurting and told adults about it. The veracity of the latter cannot be proven because yet another individual alluded that this was not the case. “We got help for the kid who told me to kill myself,” Yalden said. We will likely never know if anybody really stepped up, but the takeaway here is that at least a handful of Horton’s fellow students knew that he was in a bad place. But if anything, Yalden doesn’t believe anybody went far enough to bring any of this to light. “Your friend is hurting. You are 15 or 16 years old and you might call your friend every day, but you cannot break through the struggles that people are feeling mentally and emotionally. You don’t know how. An assessment needs to be done to find out if we need to treat this person. It’s really as simple as that,” he said. An administrator at Lincoln High School told Yalden recently that Horton would sit alone every day at lunch – and he would usually go up to him to see how he was doing. “Quai was a quiet dude, and there is nothing really wrong with sitting alone, but where sitting alone raises a red flag is that we don’t know the child’s mental state,” Yalden said, adding that sometimes a student might sit alone because they might simply be having a bad day or getting ready for an exam. “I think we should visit with them. If a child is consistently sitting alone, I would say to students and educators to just go and sit with that person and draw them out on any topic that might interest them.” Yalden said that the symptoms for suicide are very similar to that of depression, and he has a three-point theory about teen suicide:
- I am alone.
- I am a burden and a liability to other people.
- I have the desire for suicide.
Suicide: The Forever Decision By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker On February 7, 2017 – not even a week after Jeff spoke at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa – he got the news that high school senior Quai Horton had taken his life. “I have a picture of him about five feet away from where I was speaking,” he said, adding that he also conducted an in-service training for teachers at the high school about mental health and teen suicide. Days later, it became a reality when Horton made his “forever decision.” “I want to offer my prayers, thoughts and condolences to all of the classmates, students, staff members and teachers – the Des Moines community – and most of all to the parents and close friends of our friend, ‘Q,” he said in a video message about Horton. What Yalden found the most disturbing about this young man’s suicide was that there were very direct verbal clues on his Facebook page indicating his intentions – and yet nobody said a word about it. “I want to tell you something: I spent some time on Q’s Facebook page – and from January 26 to Monday [February 6] – what breaks my heart are that the signs were very direct and very clear,” he said. There was more than a week for someone to come forward, and yet nobody said anything. This must stop. “When you have a friend or you know someone is hurting and the signs are real clear like they were – my friends, you’ve got to say something. You’ve got to tell a trusted adult in your life. If worse comes to worst and you don’t know who to call – you call 911 – you call the police.” Because there is a concern about “copycat suicides” – it is of utmost importance for the community to remain vigilant for the telltale signs. Jeff has long believed that suicide is a permanent action to a temporary problem, and his theory on teen suicide has three components:
- They feel like they are alone.
- They feel like they’re are a burden to someone.
- They have a desire for suicide.
Top Teen Motivation Speaker: Expect the UnexpectedHigh School Motivational Speaker, Jeff Yalden in Des Moines, Iowa: Believe in Yourself and Engage! Jeff Yalden began his two-day stint in Des Moines, Iowa by speaking with student leaders in the ninth-grade building at Lincoln High School on February 1, 2017 – meeting them “at their level” and talking about leadership and influence. “Whether you are the president or a high school student, leadership is about your influence on your peers,” he said. FUN FACT: Speaking of presidents, did you know that former president Ronald Reagan called Chicago Cubs baseball games for WHO radio in Des Moines? This was one of his first jobs in the entertainment industry. Jeff’s first assembly was for 600 ninth graders. “Once we got rolling, the students were awesome,” he said. “We had an incredible talk about life choices, attitude and believing in yourself.” Lincoln High School is the largest high school in Iowa, and houses the 10th, 11th and 12th grade classes on a separate property two and a half miles away. This is where Jeff spent the remainder of his first day, discussing mental health with teachers and administrative staff. Because Jeff continues to battle with depression and anxiety, he brings a world of experience to the table – giving him a credibility that transcends mere research and positions him to be of real help to others. Day two included three assemblies for sophomores, juniors and seniors separately. Administrators and teachers told Jeff that the sophomore class would likely be the rowdiest class, but sometimes it pays to expect the unexpected. “It’s funny. From the moment I picked up the microphone, these kids were amazing – respectful, kind and attentive. You could have heard a pin drop,” he said. This vibe of attentiveness continued with the seniors too – and Jeff talked about being present and engaged in life – being a player in the game of life instead of just a spectator. And as usual, Jeff’s in-your-face style coupled with his compassion struck a chord with these young people. “I was intense. I was loud. Man, I had fun!” During a two-hour break, Jeff toured the building and said he got to meet with kids and teachers until it was time to speak to the junior class, which he said could have been the toughest audience. “It was right after lunch and there were a lot of juniors. I thought they would rather be on their cell phones than anything else – but you know what? It was still a great assembly. What’s funny is that what we perceived to be the worst assembly brought the most kids up afterwards to say thank you or to buy wristbands.” Since 2004, Jeff Yalden has sold over 100,000 TAKE TIME TO THINK bracelets. Get yours HERE. Jeff’s visit to Lincoln High School is not one he will soon forget. “In the end, it’s a great school with some really caring, endearing and wonderful teachers that love their kids. I was very impressed with the administration, including India Morrow, who was my point of contact that brought me in. I am a big fan of this school, and I will always remember how special of a visit we had.” Discover why Jeff Yalden is the top teen motivational speaker in North America by visiting www.jeffyalden.com. To book Jeff for your school or organization now, call 800-948-9289.
A Day in the South Carolina Lowcountry:
Jeff Yalden Inspires, Empowers and Delivers at Hilton Head PrepJeff Yalden, the top teen motivational speaker in North America, doesn’t sit still for long. After 25 years of encouraging parents and inspiring teens with his hard-hitting and heartfelt messages concerning all aspects of adolescent and teen life and the very real struggles associated with it, Yalden has the uncanny ability to meet young people where they live without pulling any punches – and he is not about to stop now. On January 30, 2017, Jeff spent the day with parents and students at Hilton Head Preparatory School on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Hilton Head Prep is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools and boasts more than 400 students from Junior Kindergarten through grade 12. Founded in 1965, it is the oldest school on the island. Currently, 100 percent of Hilton Head Prep graduates are accepted to college. Jeff’s day began with a 45-minute talk with parents, covering topics ranging from teen mental health to social media – with emphasis on the importance of parental involvement in their children’s social media activities. “When I got there, I asked how many parents were going to show up, and they said they would be excited to have five and ecstatic to have 20. They had over 45 parents come out,” he said. Last week in Clinton, Indiana, much of Jeff’s message also centered on parental vigilance about social media, and this was a big part of his toolkit for parents in Hilton Head. “Parents – you have a responsibility to take your kids’ phones by 10:00 at night. Our kids need more sleep, our kids need more exercise and our kids need to eat better foods – and that’s a parental responsibility – so let’s stop blaming it on our teachers and on our educational system,” he said. He stressed the importance of effective and stronger parenting in our nation today. “Our kids have a lot more opportunities provided to them than we ever did when we were growing up, and even some of our best kids are getting caught up doing things they shouldn’t be doing. A lot of it is because they are not monitored – and the structure is not there. They are not mentally and emotionally capable of making those well-informed decisions on their own yet.” At Hilton Head Prep, Jeff spoke to high school students about the importance of goals and staying on track and “in purpose,” using the goal-setting success stories from two students as examples for the group. “I talked about how life can knock you down, but you get back up,” he said. At breakfast, Jeff and Hilton Head Prep staff – Tina Webb Browning, Upper School Head – discussed the climate, culture and growth of the school. According to its website, Hilton Head Prep is “a strong, diverse, rigorous and innovative independent school that showcases its values and Hilton Head Island to the world.” 16 countries are represented in its student body. Later, Jeff spoke to the junior class specifically about leadership, social media and making the best of their senior year. “We wrapped up the day doing a 35-minute assembly with the middle school kids,” he said. “I kept that really simple about respecting yourself, having a good attitude and making the right choices.” 25 years in, and the Jeff Yalden Experience continues to inspire and empower young people everywhere. “I love what I do,” he said. NEXT UP: Des Moines, Iowa – Abraham Lincoln High School.
Namaste!, my friends. My name is Jeff Yalden. I’m a suicide prevention expert, youth motivational speaker speaking at high schools around the country, and do a lot of work with teen mental health and teen suicide. I’m not a Hindu and I don’t subscribe to any specific form of religion, but I live with faith, respect and follow my own moral compass. For this reason I can only discuss what the meaning of Namaste is from my own perspective, which may drastically differ from other interpretations. I believe saying the word and practicing the meaning of the word shows a great respect for the ancient roots of our yoga practice. Thousands of years ago yoga was much more than just the physical act of yoga asana (postures), it was developed as a physical, mental and spiritual practice, a method for people to live with ethics, self-discipline and aid them in accessing their divine self. Nowadays, as we know, yoga asana is primarily practiced in the Western world as a form of exercise, but it doesn’t hurt to recognise these incredible roots and respect yoga’s place as an ancient practice. Every time I say it, I’m reminded of how much I still have to learn about yoga, and myself. Secondly, I respect it’s meaning. Namaste may mean something different to everybody, and if you ask me in three years time I may give you an entirely different response. But today these are my thoughts and I standby them wholeheartedly. So, this is my faith if I have one. This is how I live personally. This is how I feed my heart and my heart gives communities and teens hope. To finish I’ll end with one lovely little word (three guesses!), a word that at first seems so small but actually turns out to be pretty big… Namaste.It seems that every time a community is interested in bringing me in after they’ve experienced a teen suicide or multiple suicides over a period of time they immediately want to know my religious beliefs. The want to know if there is a tone of religion to my work with teens, schools, and communities. In 23 years of youth motivational speaking, high school assemblies, student leadership conferences, and helping communities heal after the loss of a student by suicide, you can bet that none of my clients would ever say, “Jeff Yalden brought religion to a religious tone to any school. So, I’d like to clarify a few things about who I am and my faith. First, I suffer from major depression and PTSD. This is known. I talk about this and my journey of mental health. I am a mental health speaker and proud to be a mental health advocate for teens and parents. I believe in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and monitored medication prescribed from a professional practicing doctor presiding over your care. I’ve been in therapy myself for many years and am currently in therapy. I practice yoga, mindfulness training, meditation, and breathing. This is a daily practice for me and a place I like to be where I can center myself and continue to own my day. Have you ever done yoga? You might have heard the instructor end the class by placing his or her hands in prayer position, either in front of their chest or forehead, bow their head and share the words ‘Namaste’. As you probably looked around you noticed everyone else reciprocating, either saying the words or doing the motions. You nervously do the same but have no real understanding of what you are saying or why you are saying it. This was me when I first started out my journey in yoga. This is normal practice by most yoga teachers. Remove the language and the spirituality associated with yoga and make it more approachable to fitness-minded and health-minded individuals. I recently had spinal cord fusion and am suffering from lower back – herniated disk and degenerative “whatevers” down in my lower back causing incredible pain shooting down my legs into the heels of my feet. Doctors, referrals, x-rays, MRI’s, physical therapy, pain medication, and more. Nothing helps when I follow the system. Frustration! What does help is stretching and practicing yoga daily. My mind is clear. I am patient. I am kind and loving. I have improved mobility. I am confident and relaxed. My pain has diminished. I’m not frustrated. So, when I say, “Namaste”, I mean it when I say it. What does it mean though? In the most simple terms, Namaste is a Sanskrit word and means this: Nama = Bow As = I Te = You So the literal translation is ‘bow I you’ or ‘I bow to you’. It’s origins lie in the Hindu religion as a form of greeting or departing and is a gesture of mutual respect and acknowledgement to recognise the divine in each other. If you Google the word Namaste on the internet you’ll find a million descriptions citing the meaning of the word, it’s significance and it’s relevance in a yoga class.
For 23 years, I have worked with teens and parents in multiple capacities – speaking engagements, television, life coaching, intervention, and coaching. It’s been an honor and a privilege to have found myself in this field of work. Over the past 10 days, I have had the opportunity to sit back and read the sad and unfortunate circumstances in regards to the loss of Leelah Alcorn, the transgender from Ohio that committed suicide. I sit back and reflect as a parent and think who am I to judge. We all have opinions. I certainly am not and haven’t been a perfect parent or role model. I’ve made my mistakes and have been judged. I’ve had my successes and been applauded. As I age, I continually learn so much and look back and learn from the lessons I’ve lived knowing what I did wrong and how I could have done better. Being healthy and balanced in my heart and head has been a journey with counseling and my relationship with God. Everyday, I try and be a man that lives a positive life and supports and loves unconditionally my inner circle of people and my family. What exactly does that mean though? Through anything will I love unconditionally? Through anything will I support unconditionally? My opinion depends on the circumstances and personally, I have dealt with many circumstances to have learned from and to where I now teach from. Life’s lessons have certainly made me who I am and who I am today is a much better communicator and motivator as a result of experience and age. I think this is the case for us all. When I look at the situation from Leelah Alcorn and I think, “What if that were my child?” First, I want to hope that I would have been closer to “her”, and to know that my son, “Joshua”, that I brought into the world was having emotional issues that I needed to understand. Then, regardless of how I felt or how I thought, I wanted to do what is right as a parent and what is right and best for my child. In this circumstance, I would unconditionally love and support my child, “Leelah”, and embrace her. No question! When it comes to sexuality, my child being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, this is my child and I will love and support my child. I would act from my heart even if this challenged my faith. Where does that love and support change? What if my child was addicted to meth, heroine, crack-cocaine, prescription drugs, or alcohol? How would I respond then? Completely different situation because now I am dealing with an addiction that is different than an emotion. Having dealt with addiction and seen it firsthand, I have come to learn that to enable a behavior is to hurt the person more than you could be helping the person. I am not one to enable anyone. Personally, I think we’ve become a society that is failing our children because we are trying to hard to protect them from failure and mistakes. We can’t shelter our children from the real world. I feel that we as parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors it is our responsibility to teach our youth and children about personal responsibility and accountability. Teach them that life isn’t easy. Life is hard. Life isn’t fair. Life will never be fair. Tough love? Perhaps! Put the responsibility where it belongs. This doesn’t change the fact that I love my child unconditionally, it just changes that I am not going to support the behavior which is a result of the addiction. This is choices versus consequences. If my child chooses to get help, I am supportive and there through the process every step of the way. If the addiction is stronger than the desire and my child isn’t getting help and tearing apart the family – stealing, fighting, disrespecting, etc. I will not tolerate that and I will put boundaries on the relationship. I will let my child hit rock bottom. You can’t over parent addiction. Addiction needs the help of professionals and in my opinion it needs to be dealt with in residential care. I am not supporting the behavior, but this doesn’t change my love which still is unconditional. The point I am trying to make is that as parents we need to look at every situation differently and deal with the situation at hand. Many families have issues within the walls of their home. Don’t let your neighbors influence your parenting. Don’t try and be the almighty perfect family because you’re living a life protected by a facade. You brought your children in the world and society has an influence on them – the music, media, marketing. Nature verse nurture, too. Your faith has an influence on your morals and values, but is that more important that the circumstances at hand? Sometimes we need to change and pray about it, but what is important here is that our child knows we unconditionally love them no matter what. The support may never be understood, but that is parenting. Parenting everyday is never understood. In the case of Leelah Alcorn, I think the demise of her death is very sad and didn’t need to happen. She didn’t feel love nor she didn’t feel support. That is sad. She left saying, “Let my death mean something!” I want to honor that. What does her death mean to you as a parent in how you love and support your child? Whether it is grades, sports, friends, sexuality, drugs, or anything else. How are you going to show your child your support and love? How are you going to parent and teach? What message do you want your child to get? Parenting is about being a part of your children’s lives and knowing who they are and being there for them in the good times and the bad times. It’s being their inspiration and the disciplinarian. It’s listening and offering advice and support. It’s correcting actions and behaviors, too. Parenting isn’t easy. Nobody every said it was. You will fail and cry, because you did things wrong. You will laugh and applaud, because you did things right, too. To judge yourself daily as a parent is to be expecting too much of yourself and trying to be the “Perfect” parent. You are a family and that is what is most important. In the end, I want my children to know I love them and I’ll support them. I may not support their choices and decisions, but I will listen. They need to know that I will give tough love when I have to. I will not enable them because enabling is setting up our youth, whether our children, our students, our athletes, whomever, for failure and a life of hurt. I want to be a role model and let my actions speak louder than my parenting. I want them to be happy, but what does happy really mean? I want them to be good and to do what is right, but who is to say, “What is really right?” I hope in the end, my children grow up and become young people that that live a life of meaning, live a life of fulfillment, and are rewarded for who they are, how they live, and in the manner in which they’ve lived – as a result of what I may have taught them. Just my thoughts . . . Who is Jeff Yalden Jeff Yalden is a Teen and Family Communicator. A Suicide Prevention Specialist and a Teen Motivational Speaker. He is the author of “Your Life Matters.” Jeff is the Host of “The Jeff Yalden Show”, on WMRC 1490 Radio and his Podcast for teens and parents can be found at www.JeffYalden.com/itunes. Follow Jeff on Social Media @JeffYalden and visit his website at www.JeffYalden.com.