Love Beyond Limits: Help for Teens and Parents
By Dianne Anderson
Teens and parents are invited to join up and talk out their problems, but especially if they don’t think they have a problem, which was true for Maleka Chris throughout her growing years.
Chris said she didn’t realize that she was the problem behind her choices that were causing more problems. It was an endless loop, but she just needed good direction.
“I was making a lot of bad choices. I can honestly say I didn’t have a great support system around me. I didn’t have a program or someone telling me that I could do it,” said Chris, founder of the nonprofit Love Without Limits mentoring program.
From her own misguided youth, she learned what it takes to help others find their way.
A big part of their growth starts with keeping the lines of communication open. Until they start sharing with counselors and their parents, she said they may not be able to discern right from wrong, the good from the bad.
When she started her nonprofit 2009, she said that it was important to apply her own life’s lessons to support teens 13 through 19 with after-school services that weren’t available in her teen years.
Many of the stories she hears in their counseling sessions are familiar. Sometimes, she said it involves a lot of crying, kicking and complaining. Or, at least it starts off that way.
“Dad is leaving, somebody got molested, and somebody got killed. Things happen and definitely, there is a place for that, but we can’t waddle or stay there. You have to have a solution-based mind or you will always blame people for our shortcomings,” said Chris, who is also a facilitator for emotional CPR training.
Everyone comes into her programs at the same level. No matter their issue or problems, she believes progress can be made, but only if students and parents are honest about their role in the process.
Families, parents and kids, must take an active part in their healing and personal growth.
“You have the answers to your family. You tell me how can we better help your family? How can we help you communicate better with your children? Anybody can change, and anybody can be better,” she said.
Today, as a mother of four daughters, she openly shares the challenges that she has faced with other parents.
This year, COVID-19 is one pressure that is pressuring the community, but Chris feels that much of the anxiety and barriers to growth have more to do with the internet. Kids are immersed in social media and fake reality, but she said that was happening long before the pandemic. She tries to override the negativity that comes from high level of social media exposure.
“The kids are constantly judging themselves. How can I be an Instagram sensation and go viral? How can they focus on study or a career when they’re so distracted by this?” she said. “That’s where their minds are getting desensitized from life, and real activities.”
Her program is based on 13 levels of accountability, called “13 stones” which include self-image, respect and accountability, the role of the parent and the role of the child.
“Accountability is our first zone. It doesn’t matter what you have been through. What do you want to do with yourself? How can we help you get there?” said Chris, who is located in the Long Beach Community Foundation Nonprofit Center building, but she is continuing virtual sessions.
Chris has also been recognized as Outstanding Community Leader by the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Council, and Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson announced Love Beyond Limits as the 2019 California Nonprofit of the Year in the 64th Assembly District.
Once a month, she invites parents to be available the parents and children can begin to learn from each other. By the end of the workshop, she said they all share a real dinner together so the parents can meet, and have an opportunity to keep the social support and networking going.
Sometimes, the kids get to question their parents about their greatest challenges, and how they handled the situation.
“Kids asked parents have you ever been disrespected and if so what did you do? [It’s] an opportunity to learn about their parents, and that gives parents an opportunity to learn about how their children think,” she said. “Those conversations take you all kinds of places, but it’s a great start.”
To get involved, see https://lovebeyondlimits.org