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The Support System

Understanding who else is in a young person’s life, what their support system is, and what your own support system is.

Being a support person for a teenager can feel isolating and at many times distressing – but when you find yourself in this role one thing to always remember is that you aren’t alone.

When young people are going through tough times, they can find it hard to talk about what’s happening. They might find it hard to talk to you about a problem, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reaching out to others in their life.

Finding help

Make sure to think about the people in the young person’s life that can provide support for them, and think about your own support system as well.  It is important to involve others to help you and the person you are supporting. Everyone needs support – including you.

Think about which family, friends, whanāu members, teachers or sports coaches would be best at finding out what is going on for the person involved.

Keep offering to listen to the young person. Even if they aren’t reaching out to you, it’s important to let them know that you are there when/if they are ready to talk with you, and that it is important for them to talk to someone, even if that someone isn’t you at the moment.

What a support system can look like

A support network might include friends, family, and whanau, as well as trusted teachers or guidance counsellors, cultural elders, faith leaders or community groups you or the young person is involved with.  It could also include people who have been through something similar and can share what helped them get through. The main purpose of a support system is to provide the young person with what they need to help guide them through difficult times in their lives.

How to build a support network

  • First – talk to the young person you are supporting about what is going on. Express things from your own point of view. Ask them to tell you what they need, what works for them and who they want to be involved. Think about the other people who are already involved in their life, who they trust and who they go to for advice and support already. Also look into the different ways that they can seek help, from organisations, school guidance counselor or help lines.
  • Second – Bring the group together in a safe and comfortable place. Talk openly and honestly about the situation. It can help you and those around you to understand all the different parts of a situation and work out how to deal with it together.
  • Third – Develop a plan together to support the young person – identify how others can help and how to reach them.
  • Fourth – Sometimes a young person needs more support than what their family, friends and loved ones can provide. Understanding when a young person needs more help  than you can give, can be be difficult to hear, but reaching out for professional support early on can sometimes be the right decision for the young person and yourself.

Click here to find more information on types of support.

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