Moving on from fear, shame, loneliness and judgement
I think becoming a mum comes with its own set of emotions and experiences that challenge you regardless of your personal circumstances and age. For me, the memories of having my first baby at 17 are marbled with fear, shame, loneliness and judgement. That’s not to say that it wasn’t also full of love, growth, connection and all the wonder that comes with parenting, just that a lot of that still came with an undertone of stereotyping that is reserved for parents of a certain age.
When I was first introduced to Raise, they were running two programs; youth mentoring in schools and the Bump program for young mums. Whilst they now focus solely on early intervention for year 8-9 students, it was the mentoring I experienced during the Bump sessions that brought me to become a Program Counsellor myself.
My mentor made me feel valued and reminded me that there was much more to my identity than being a young mum. I developed the courage to value myself and take stock of the relationships I was in, to look forward to where I wanted to be and start making the steps to get to that place. I was able to step out of my comfort zone, re-engage in education and get the momentum started in creating the life l wanted. In 2016 I realised my goal by becoming a Program Counsellor with Raise at the age of 26.
I’d always been interested in studying and working in the welfare field and my personal experiences really cemented this. With hindsight I wanted to understand the reasons behind some of my own decision making and be able to share that understanding with others around me.
2 simple tips for supporting young people
I often hear from other parents and people working with adolescents that they can’t keep up with what’s happening for young people, that the world and technology is changing so fast they don’t know enough to support the young people around them.
- Don’t forget the fundamentals:
I think that as adults we get so caught up in the changes in the world, we forget what it’s like to be a teenager!
The theory of self-determination focusses on competence, autonomy, and relatedness. That is, we all have the fundamental need to feel like we’ve done a good job, to feel like we’ve had control and to feel we belong with other people with meaningful relationships. It seems simple, but when it comes to adolescents, the push for autonomy – the need to discover who they are as their own person – takes control of the accelerator and that can often leave people feeling like they’re suddenly being taken for an unexpected ride.
As adults in our young people’s lives, we need to remember that the way our teenagers view the world is changing and while they’re pushing away from us, we need to work overtime to keep the pathway back in open. Empathy allows connection.
- People are the experts in their own lives
The way our adolescents view the world is ever changing so don’t be afraid to ask the question! It’s admittedly difficult to keep up with a Facebook post to an Instagram reel to a Snapchat video to a Tiktok trend! Yes, it can be scary, often adults feel like they need to be the authority in their young person’s life. My advice would be to never underestimate the power in allowing a teenager to teach you. Not only might you learn something new, but you can also embrace the empowerment they feel in being the instructor!
Being a ‘time poor’ parent myself I love a good, quick, informative podcast! I recommend listening to Dr Justin Coulson’s Happy Families or Parental as Anything with Maggie Dent to help with any concerns you’re facing or exploring.
It’s an honour to hear someone’s story
I’ve experienced first hand how the Raise program has positive impacts for young people. For me, the key impact is the honour of hearing someone’s story and knowing that they truly believe that you’re there to help them. I always find it’s the gradual, less obvious changes in mentees that impact me the most.
It’s seeing mentees come into the first session looking sceptical and leaving the last session looking empowered. It’s watching the connection between mentees and mentors grow and all defences drop over time. It’s past mentees thriving and feeding back to new students that there is so much to look forward to. It’s being the difference a mentor makes.