Be someone they can talk to.
“You listened. You took me seriously, valued … and validated how I felt, and came to me with serious solutions instead of brushing [my feelings] aside.”
Youth don’t need adults to have all the solutions. They do need adults to be on their side, asking authentic questions, giving honest responses, and partnering with them to find a way forward.
That all sounds good until the going really gets tough. Youth and adults have real problems keeping us up at night and youth mental health is suffering, especially for LGBTQ+, BIPOC & female young people (2021 CDC study). Grief, fear and even despair are natural responses to difficult life circumstances or just the evening news. It’s easy for adults to feel overwhelmed too.
Youth are learning to self-govern, regulate emotions and cultivate resilience and hope for the future. The very best way adults can support youth’s learning is practicing these things ourselves, however imperfectly: self-care for sustainability and impact, embodiment practices, nurturing connections with supportive people and community and fighting for what we love.
Hope is a discipline.
A group of 16-19 year-olds participated in a “generational caucus” at an event last fall. They explained that they resent the “pressure to fix everything” they feel coming from adults. At the same time, they love their generation’s political awareness and motivation. A young colleague told me that the work she is doing through her internship gives her radical hope. “We’re going to make change.” she told me. “We’re going to be able to work toward a solution for these issues in our school and our community. It gives me a sense of purpose. I am actively putting my frustration into making meaningful change.”
The key ingredients for her? Support from trusted adults who listen with curiosity and partner with her to find solutions. Connections with peers who share her values and vision. A place to channel her energy to create change in her community.
It’s easy to feel powerless, but we profoundly impact each other. When adults commit to staying curious and understanding youth perspectives, when we share power and collaborate toward solutions, our relationships with youth can fuel a sense of expansive possibility for us as well as for them.
Together, we can create ripples of positive change into our communities. Adults – let’s do this!
Don’t give up!
Original Artwork by Teppi Zuppo @aioazech TeppiZuppo.com