Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been no easy task for young people around the globe. In this video, Angelica discusses how she has felt during the pandemic. She also touches on the positive support she has received from the trusted adults in her life.
Listening is the most important thing you can do for a young person. It’s one of those things that sounds easy, but so few of us do it well. Listen to understand, not respond – listen with empathy and curiosity, and really try to understand what they are telling you. Try to put your judgements aside, and quiet the voice in your head that is jumping to solutions. That gives them the chance for deeper self-reflection and understanding which is a wonderful gift you can give them – without even getting off the couch!
Acknowledge a young person’s feelings without trying to change them, or tell them that they are wrong for feeling that way. Doing this is extremely powerful, because it validates that it’s ok to feel whatever it is they are feeling. Responses like “that sounds really hard” or “what’s it like to feel like that?” or “what can I do to support you?” are much more likely to create connection than telling them that they don’t need to worry.
In some ways we have more space than ever now, but in some ways we have much less. Young people certainly have much less access to those natural mentoring moments – five minutes with a favourite teacher before school starts, time after sports practice chatting with the coach, etc. Even at home, it can be hard to find time for meaningful conversations with most members of the family being home at the same time. So you need to work a bit harder to create this space – a walk after dinner, a chat at bed-time, a cup of tea together on the couch, time in the car on the way to the shops. Find out what works best for you and the young people in your life and make it happen!
Young people need boundaries – they help them to feel safe. At a time when things are shifting very quickly and constantly, it can make everyone feel anxious. Try to maintain a sense of normalcy wherever possible. Boundaries may be shifting, so have conversations about this and set clear parameters. Try to be patient – make sure you are taking care of yourself so that you can be there for the young people in your life.
It’s really normal for teenagers to withdraw and become more private. This doesn’t mean they don’t need you anymore, it just means they’re learning how to navigate this stage of development. Rejection is to be expected, and the best advice is don’t take it personally. Keep knocking on the door – it might not open the first time, the second time, or even the fifth time. Eventually it will open, and in the meantime, you have shown you care, and you’re not going anywhere – and that is gold.
Read about the difference a mentor made in James’ life here.