I cannot stress the importance of detached youth work. I am sad that this important role has been lost and I feel society has become a lot shallower because of it.
Issues and concerns surrounding isolation, access to good public transport, deprivation and resilience, along with caring responsibilities become evident through the “one to one” listening’s with young people on street corners, bars, café’s, wherever.
A real sense of the challenges that young people face on a day to day basis has been grasped by wandering the streets of Cornwall and meeting them where they are at. They are “hard to reach” and when found provide examples of inequality. i.e. disability, poverty, education. These are all being witnessed first-hand.
There is a Statutory guidance for listening to children and young people! If the Government believes it to be that important, then start employing detached youth workers once again. They have the listening ear for young people.
Forbes asks the question, “Why isn’t your business listening to young people“?
More than ever, we need to sit and listen. Not give advice, not tell them something but listen… Be an active listener but use your ears. Being a teenager is a confusing and difficult time, transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Gaining independence and being granted more opportunities to make decisions for themselves… Teenagers seem to be ‘grown up’ on the outside. On the inside that world is uniquely different for every young person.
A while ago a wise mum deciding to make space for her two teenagers. She became aware of them growing apart. So, she made time for them. On Monday afternoon, she implemented her plan. She made tea in a tea pot (very grown up!) and put a plate of biscuits out and then sat down on the couch, Daughter one arrives and asks what are you doing? Mum said I wanted to give you a chance for a chat about school and today. Daughter then arrived, heard what was being said. Both took the biscuits and cleared off. Undaunted, she repeated the exercise throughout the week. On Thursday, one of the daughters stopped and said will you be here everyday waiting for us. The reply was yes and the daughter sat down and started chatting. On Friday both daughters sat and now every day, is a tea pot and biscuits day.
When I worked on the streets in London, I had several older folks on the team with me and they had a unique offering to give young people. One lady of 74 years asked two of the street lads would you like to come and have a cup of tea. Yes they said and they went home with her. Now there are a lot of reasons why this isn’t a good thing to do, but this woman wanted to give the boys a chance to be heard. At home she said she will be baking and would they like to make some cakes with her. One of the lads asked if they could make fairy cakes. She was surprised by this and asked why. The reply, “It was the last thing my mum cooked with me before she left home when I was 7”.
Be patient with young people. Give them opportunity. They need to feel they are being listened to and not being judged. When they express ideas, it is a real privilege. They don’t give them out a lot for fear of being rejected or laughed at. So listen. Don’t judge, don’t offer advice or be bossy (unless of course the advice is requested by the teenager), be an active listener. Say yes but a better answer showing active listening, Why do you feel… how did that…. what do you think. These questions encourage the listener to continue talking, they feel they are being heard. Show respect, it means a lot and don’t be afraid of silences. Don’t take how they behave personally.
It is a hard time for young people and it is getting harder. Change the world for one by listening!