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  • Writer's pictureEbony Millard

Youth Week, Celebrating the fabulous Young People among us.

In celebration of youth week I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the amazing young people among us, because let’s face it, so many of them get a bad rap. Teenagers are often called lazy, rude and social media/gaming obsessed.   But it’s fair to say in our rapidly evolving world, the youth face a host of challenges that can be overwhelming and many of these challenges are ones their parents never had to consider. The transition from childhood to adulthood is full of change and uncertainty. It is a time of significant physical, emotional, and cognitive development. On top of that, societal pressures, academic expectations, peer relationships, and family dynamics can intensify feelings of stress and anxiety, leaving many teens feeling overwhelmed and isolated, Add in things like living through a pandemic during a crucial time in their social development, social media influence, economic uncertainties, and the worlds environmental crisis, the path to adulthood is scary. It’s no wonder some young people struggle. And to add one more insult to injury, it is during this period of adolescence that mental health vulnerabilities often begin to emerge.

So how do we as parents and adults within the community help our fabulous young people overcome these challenges and emerge stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to thrive in the modern world?

First we have to have an open mind and understand that things are not like they were when we were their age, not really. When I was a teenager there was no social media, no sexting, no porn hub, no only fans, or online bullying. There was no evidence of global warming, plenty of jobs and the chances of purchasing a house and actually paying off the mortgage was relatively high. Wars felt like imaginary things happening in countries so far away they never crossed my mind. Fast forward to today and I am confronted with all of these issues and so many more, within a few minutes of scrolling my insta feed.


So let’s break down some of the biggest challenges faced by our young people.


1.     Academic Pressure: Many young people feel enormous stress to perform well and get good grades. Then they are trying to balance academic responsibilities with extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and a personal life, which can actually lead to burnout and mental health issues.

2.     Technology and Social Media: We all love a good cat video or viral TikTok trend, but social media platforms can increase feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression, as young people compare their lives to curated online lives and influencers. In addition, the constant connectivity of smartphones can lead to addiction, sleep disturbances, and a lack of real-world social interactions, leaving them vulnerable to outside negative influences and bullying.

3.     Economic Uncertainty: Economic instability and a competitive job market can create anxiety and uncertainty for young people entering the workforce. Add in student loan debt, a housing crisis and the rising cost of living, financial independence becomes a daunting prospect for many young adults.

4.     Mental Health Issues: Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are on the rise among young people, likely as a result of the points mentioned above. It’s important to remember, stigma surrounding mental health can prevent youth from seeking help and accessing necessary support.


With all that, and lets be honest, this doesn't even scratch the surface of those kids living in families with domestic violence, homelessness, drug and alcohol affected parents or intergeneration trauma, to name just a few, how can adults support young people?


1.     Open Communication: Adults need to be the ones who create a safe and non-judgmental environment where young people feel comfortable discussing their struggles and seeking guidance. By actively listening to young people’s concerns, validating their feelings, and offering empathetic support, we empower young people to share their problems and find solutions.

2.     Promote Healthy Coping Styles: Encourage young people to engage in activities that promote mental and emotional well-being, such as exercise, mindfulness, creative expression, and spending time outdoors. Better yet, model healthy behaviours and coping mechanisms in your own life and invite them to join you. I cannot stress enough how helpful this can be. You will never make any head way with a “do as I say and not as I do” approach. This especially comes into play when you complain to a young person about the amount of time they spend on their phones when you are glued to your own phone (I am so guilty of this!).

3.     Nurture Resilience: Help your young people develop resilience by teaching them age appropriate independence, problem-solving skills, coping strategies, and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Highlight the importance of self-care and self-compassion and take time out to engage in self-care activities with them.

4.     Have Patience: Your young people may seem big enough to take on adult responsibilities but their brain is literally still developing. They don’t have the same priorities as you, they actually do need more sleep than you think and they are still very naïve and vulnerable (even if they think they know it all). We adults have learned through the wisdom of experience, trial and error and mistakes we made along the way. It’s completely normal for young people to make mistakes, engage in risky behaviour, try new things and muck up. As the adult, you might think you can save them from some heartache by telling them what to and what not to do, but ask yourself, did you always listen to your parents?

 

There is no doubt the challenges faced by today's youth are more numerous and complicated than most adults give them credit for, I could write a whole book (but I won’t because there are heaps of books out there about raising teens already). I think the biggest point I am trying to make is that with the support of patient and understanding adults, our young people can navigate the challenges they face with confidence and emerge stronger on the other side. I am lucky enough to spend a fair bit of time with young people and I can honestly say my experience has been educational (yep), at times frustrating, but mostly these kids are smart, funny, courageous, caring, brilliant people who struggle with the responsibilities in their life as much as the rest of us. The biggest tip I can give you is to always remember YOU are the adult and they are not quite adults, so it is unfair to expect them to behave as such all the time. Yes, I know, sometimes they act overly confident and lose their temper with boring adults, but they are still vulnerable, they are still learning, and they need our support to ensure they become the fabulous adults they are so close to being.




 

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