This thought struck has been in my mind for some time now. We need to listen to what our youths have to say some more. Young people, time and time again, have discussed with me the problems they have with the parents, guardians, teachers, authority figures, elders etc. not listening to them.
There are many types of listening parents and elders have to do in these times. Firstly we have to realise that our children have changed from the time when we were children. Even me myself, when i first started working with young people, I felt the generation gap! I had to readjust and not be judgemental of the experiences of the youth of today. I had to realise that my time, even though it was no so very long ago, is different from the experiences of today’s youths. I had to remember that these young people are not me and did not grow up in my era, in my circle of friends, in my family. I had to learn about the different challenges young people face today I had to listen to them to learn what is going on in their lives.
We have to actively listen to our young people. When I say listen, again I don’t just mean chatting in the car on the way to school. We have to actively listen. I think some parents need to block out a half hour and do the essentials of good listening. Eye contact, genuine interest, minimal questions, undivided attention. A number of times we are not listening to our young people when we are doing other things, washing the dishes, watching TV, driving in the car, etc, but that is not always a healthy and effective way to listen. Also we are always itching to ask questions to our young people but if we just let them talk all the information will come forth. No matter what, young people want to feel a sense of empowerment, a sense of worth, and when they are sharing what is going on with them, by all means give them the attention they desire and rightfully deserve.
Another way we can listen is by observing the body lauguage of our youths. Many times we feel afraid to ask questions when we see something out of the ordinary. Sometimes we can take it to the next extreme and ask too many questions. Its all about observation and balance. I think every parent should be able to pick up on the changes in the body language of their children. If you see changes in behaviour, maybe they have starting some acting out behaviours. There is always a reason for that behaviour. The behaviour in fact will happed in small doses before it gets to a grander scale. Why did my youth get out of control? some parents ask….well its because the little changes were not observed and addressed. A simple way to deal with a change in behaviour sometimes is to offer an ear to the youth. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything, they won’t be judged. And if they messed up and made a mistake that they will still be loved.
Many times youths come to see me and they claim that they act out because they are tired of trying to get their elders to listen to them. Sometimes they feel that their elders won’t understand why they might have messed up in some area of life. The youths are often afraid that their elders would pass judgement on them and they would loose their love. Sometimes the judgement has already been passed and the young person decided to respond to the self fulfilling prophecy. So the youth might say to himself/herself “ok so you think I am bad, ok, I will show you I am bad!!!!”
All of this goes back to the point. Talk to the youths and listen to them. Actively listen by giving just 30 mins of undivided attention from time to time. Listen not only with your ears, but your eyes and other senses. Look at when your young person has subtle changes in body language and behaviour. Ask questions and if they are unwilling to talk, leave the door open for them to come to you. A simple way is to just tell the youth “ok I understand you don’t want to talk now about whatever is going on but know that you can come chat with me when you are ready”, and leave it at that no more questions! Just these little reassurances can go a long way for a young person. One of the things that we have to remember is that we CANNOT base what is going on with out young people today on our time. Our time was different, peer pressure was not such a burden, we didn’t even have half the technology that is available now, we were not exposed to so much information about everything and anything, women were not half as independent as they are now, these are to name just a few changes from back in the day when we were teenagers to now when we have our own teenagers.
Listen to what your youths have to say. communicate with them. We can change the world one young person at a time. I believe that and I am trying my best to do my part, are you?