When I was growing up and living in my “adolescent ” years, I remember having good moments and times of intense emotions. During these times of intense emotions, I isolated myself and attempted to hide the pain. Sometimes it came out as anger. There were times I could pinpoint the nature of my pain and other times, there were no words to describe it. I had to grow through this experience on my own. However, I remember clearly adults and relationships with others were instrumental factors in my development and my healing, as well as helping me to define my identity, my belief systems, my values and my actions. Despite the pain of the adolescent years, I enjoyed learning, growing and becoming me.
Thus, it was no surprise to me when I tuned into a webinar training which focused upon the power of relationships during adolescence. The webinar was hosted by the University of Toronto Social Work facility led by Dan Siegel. What was exciting about the webinar was hearing Dan defute some critical myths about the adolescent period and highlight the need for relationships, novelty and independence for young people. A light bulb clicked for me. I felt my ideals validated as well which is important for every fresh person heading into their chosen career field.
When I was younger, I had many aunts (related and via friendships) who took the time to connect with me and provide me insight. I began to love the moments of listening to my aunties talk about life and laugh with each other. These women taught me about relationships. They gave me tools on how to understand men. They spoke to me about critical values such as integrity, wisdom, humility, and more which became the foundation of my own personal values. My aunties helped me to refine my identity and shape my understanding of myself and women. They also encouraged me to critically analyze the role women play in society and become interested in areas of social justice. During my emotional distress one of my “saving” grace was learning to look outside of my issues and pain, and focus upon understanding others struggles.
As an adolescent from 13 to 22 years old, my peer social group also played a significant role in my development. Through my peers I felt loved, accepted, validated, and part of a cultural group independent of my parents. Youth culture was enmeshed into my daily living in the music, the foods I liked, the clothes I wore, the image I hoped to portray, and the activities I partook in.
Finally, learning was a critical experience as an adolescent. As I began to read more books, I stumbled on history books, books on social justice and politics, philosophy and anthropology and so much more. Learning was as addictive as anything else I craved. Learning opened new doors for me and helped me to develop emotionally.
Eventually the pain was replaced with stability with grounding with balance to secure. When I left my teens years I was secured in the fact that I had thoroughly learned what I hoped to learn and was prepared and equipped to tackle the longest life period, adulthood.
If you are seeking to support your young person, here are some tips :
–EMPATHY! Showing empathy goes a long way to supporting young people as they emerge into the person they will be. The struggle is long and tough, but only the young person can take away from their experience what they need to be strong.
RELATIONSHIPS…are critical for your young person. Form a different relationship with your child where you provide guidance and leadership, but also an ear to listen and hear. In the relationship, always show the respect you need to the youth. Young people learn by example, and if you don’t respect them don’t expect them to show the same respect for you.
MODEL good values and principles to your youth. They are looking to you to show them how they can be great adults. They also follow your mal-adaptive coping strategy. If you need support, seek assistance to help you as an adult so you can support your youth effectively.
CREATE opportunities to help your young person learn by connecting them with libraries, encouraging volunteerism, supporting critical thinking, challenging inconsistencies and poor behavior, rewarding meaningful experiences with relationships.
SUPPORT, GUIDANCE and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE,