Use your influence in the lives of young people to have the tough conversations with them. Don’t shy away from the topics that other adults may be too embarrassed or not informed to talk about. Open up the door to have a conversation, not to lecture or give advice, but to validate thoughts, ask them questions and steer them toward choices that will improve their lives, give hope and extent grace. Here are a few conversations that while tough have proven to be worthwhile in helping young people.
Talking with young people about sex and giving them a safe person to ask questions to can help them navigate tough moments. Can it be awkward and uncomfortable yes, but we would rather have young people have a conversation with us, a person to ask questions too, than what article they can find online. Driving with a few of the guys, I knew their Mom was worried about them, girls, dating, and possibly sex. So, we had to have a conversation. I started off by letting them know that we are going to talk about something a little awkward for 10-15 minutes, that it was a safe place to ask questions, and after that time that they knew they could come to me with questions and I wouldn’t bother them on a daily basis about it. They felt they could talk to me more than their Mom, that just knowing there was an end to the conversation helped get through it, and they had some really good questions. If we want to influence young people to view sex in a healthy way, we need to be informed and willing to have a conversation with them.
You never really know until you ask. Our young people are continually bombarded my stress, pressure and expectations that can wear down on a persons mental health. By normalizing the conversation with you about mental health we can help them connect to community resources and talk about the pressures that they feel. Not sure how to have the conversation? There are a ton of organizations that look to promote mental health and wellness, attend a training or a conference, and begin to ask youth about their mental health during your typical conversations. Some of the things that we do are mental health checks, asking youth to describe emotions, practicing mindfulness and learning about coping strategies. This is a new generation where rates of drunk driving and teenage pregnancies are down, however depression, mental health challenges, and suicide rates are at an al time high for our young people. Have a conversation with them about mental health and ways to improve their wellness.
What do you think it means to be a good Dad or Mom? A lot of the youth we work with are teenage parents. They know what it takes to be a good parent, sometimes they just need some extra support. Start to have the conversation about what it means to be a parent and how they can influence the lives of their kids. As a new father, I began to ask a lot of the groups I worked with for advice. Sounds crazy, but they all have parents, have experienced amazing things and dealt with hurts. Their hearts bursted with ideas, joy and thoughts about parenting. If you have teenage parents in your programs, create safe spaces for them to come and engage with other youth and allow their kids a safe space to be as well.
No one likes tough conversations. They can be awkward, unnerving and can even have some level of conflict in them. Yet, these conversations when had in a safe space, with an adult that has demonstrated care and respect, can help equip our young people to make informed decisions about their lives.