There is a new generation of kids now that are finding themselves on their own. These are the kids who steal... the kids who lie constantly... the kids who are promiscuous... the "weed heads" the yet again pregnant teen... these are the "unsaveables." The "unsaveables" most often come with an extreme amount of baggage and various labels attached to them. This baggage can be a mental disorder, such as Bipolar Disorder or Conduct Disorder. However, it could also be a medical condition the child is predisposed to, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Some of the "unsaveables" were born into chaotic environments, while others transitioned there. The kids who have lived through horrific traumatic experiences are the ones who need us most...yet the ones we turn our backs on the most. Unless you have been through a traumatic experience yourself, you have no idea what reality looks like for these kids. Some of them are fortunate enough to have experienced trauma for a short period of time. Then there are those that experience reoccurring trauma in their daily lives. Most of the time, we don't recognize their behaviors as re-enactment of trauma or a direct response to trauma, so we misdiagnose and treat the symptoms rather than the disease.
You might say to yourself, "Well I'm not surrounded by any "unsaveables," but I beg to differ. The "unsaveables" are in every environment, but the manifestation of symptoms looks different for every child. Some children are over-achievers desperately attempting to overcompensate for a void that can't be filled without proper treatment and after care. While others refuse to try anything due to a fear of failure. The pressure for success is too great, so they decide not to go against the grain. These kids are fairly easy to pass over, because many of these behaviors can be attributed to the average teenage transition.
We pass over these children when we think to ourselves "This isn't my problem...that isn't my child...what does that have to do with me?" I am a firm believer in the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." Can we actually say we have done our due diligence if we feed a child at school, yet fail to link their family to proper resources that provide food? Have we done our due diligence if we talk about a child with poor hygiene, yet fail to teach them proper hygiene?
There is another proverb that can be applied in this instance. It is a Chinese proverb that states: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Both proverbs speak volumes, because they involve passing down various skills and values from generation to generation. Our youth can't obtain success without our help. It's up to us to stop the cycle that reinforces the "unsaveables" as a separate part of our culture. The question becomes, how can we help? How can we reinforce the Gospel of being Jesus' hands and feet with these children? There are many things that can be done, but here's a short list...
5 Steps to Save The "Unsaveables:"
1. Believe them.
Believe their stories. Believe their reality. If a child shares something personal with you, that means they have some level of trust in you. There may be some details that are mixed up, but for the most part they are giving you their reality.
2. Believe in them.
Constantly and excessively praise the good! Children like this don't hear what wonderful people they are very often. Every time you tell them you believe in them or they did a great job - it matters. Some may appear to blow it off or act like it's not a big deal, but trust me - it matters. Sure, they have an abundance of negative qualities, but I guarantee you there is also an abundance of positive qualities most people never knew existed.
3. Nurture the gift inside of them.
Every person has something to offer to the world. Furthermore, children, in their innocence, have much to offer. They teach us things about ourselves and our lives that we otherwise would not have known. many times the gifts are weighed down by fear, stress, chaos, traumatic experiences.
4. Teach them to build on the resilience they have already demonstrated.
If a child has experienced trauma and survived, they are resilient. If they continue to live through daily trauma, they are resilient. There is something very powerful about functioning amidst chaos. Build on the skills they have and go from there.
5. Love them intently!
Everyone wants and needs love - children are no different. I don't care what the behavior looks like, everyone desires to be loved and accepted. Love them through the fourth time they've stolen from your wallet! Love them through the 3rd time they stayed out past curfew this week! Love them through their teenage pregnancy! Love them through their battle with anxiety and depression!