The Invisible Problem Putting All Youth At Risk
We throw lots of information at youth, “do this” “don’t do that” “be honest”
“be kind” “don’t cheat” “be quiet” “Listen” “Stop” “No” “What are you thinking?” We hope that some of what we throw at them sticks, but we rarely ask for their buy in. Naturally, we have many good reasons for wanting them to listen, to pay attention to our demands, and expectations, and to honor our requests. We want youth to be safe, do well, and follow socially acceptable behaviors to fit in. But when we throw information at them, despite our good intentions, we aren’t getting their buy in. This begs the question: Are we giving youth what they really need to build the lives we really want them to have?
In today’s society youth are saturated with information and information choices. In their typical day, whether at home, in school, in the work place, participating in extracurricular activities, or in their social circles, youth are bombarded with a myriad of expectations, rules, and policies. This makes it extremely difficult for youth to discover their true identity—Most adults who care for youth view these demands and expectations as normal, and that makes it easy to overlook what youth really need to support the mental and emotional health needed for healthy, sane, safe development. Youth are rarely given opportunities to introspect and discover their own voice and life purpose. Many youth are overwhelmed, confused, disconnected, unhappy, lost. Some of these youth get through their days by “numbing out” by using
bad/harmful behaviors. Other youth may be good at pretending they are okay, but internally they are suffering, which means in a perfect storm they may engage in a sudden radical behavior causing themselves or others great harm.
All you have to do is BLINK- Red Flags
If you have a youth that you can’t communicate with, shuts most adults down, isn’t living up to his or her potential, and/or acts out, then it’s time to SUPPORT them- BECAUSE, believe me when I say…ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS BLINK… and it could be too late! The RED Flag Warning is front and center and our youth need IMMEDIATE support. But it’s got to be different than what they’ve been getting!
What do Youth Need to Thrive?
As adults, we all want our children to grow up and thrive—live productive, meaningful, joyful lives! For this to happen youth need OUR TIME, OPPORTUNITIES, and ENCOURGEMENT to discover who they are at their core. The fundamental crisis every youth must begin to solve during adolescence (age 11 – 21) is figuring out their identity. According to the research, youth must answer three questions:
- Who am I?
- What is my Purpose?
- Where do I belong?
Additionally, youth must be skilled in ways to live each day being true to who they are so they like who they are. The answers to these core questions and the skills needed to be true to who they are a winning formula to living a life that is intentionally chosen and aligned with one’s core values & purpose. To live a truly productive, meaningful, joyful life, youth must become adults who know who they are, what they stand for, and build their lives accordingly.
The Greatest Challenge
The greatest challenge for most adults in the lives of youth, are that their roles force them into one-way communication styles. Parents dictate house rules, teachers dictate classroom rules, school administrators dictate school rules, coaches dictate rules of the sport, all extracurricular activities have rules and regulations, and employers dictate rules for on the job. When and who is providing the consistent opportunities, experiences, and encouragement that youth need to answer the questions that matter most.
The answers to the 3 questions matter most, because their answers shape their entire lives. How? Their beliefs, values, and their perspectives about themselves and their abilities literally direct their thinking, decisions, and behavioral choices; and they carry these into adulthood.
Something to Remember
Whatever you think about thinking, remember this: Whatever a person thinks/believes about himself or herself, shapes the lives they will live. Henry Ford said it best “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
As an influencer of YOUTH (parent, teacher, coach, employer, etc.) What are you doing to MOVE YOUTH INTO PRODUCTIVE, MEANINGUL, JOYFUL LIVES?
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