“Youth need honesty and attentiveness. Adults need to share their own quest – the faith struggles, hopes and doubts that they also face.”
Adults and Youth
Every adolescent needs a mentor. They need adults to listen to them and serve as role models. Grown-ups who, by their availability and presence, convey a sense of safety and control. Parents and adults who share interests can listen, provide support and options. “Kids need more than rides, pizza, chaperones and discipline. If nobody is there to talk to, it is difficult to get the lessons of your own life so that you are adequately prepared to do the next thing. Without a link across generations, kids will only hear from peers.” (Patricia Hearst, A Tribe Apart: A Journey Into the Heart of American Adolescence, p. 362)
The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development report, A Matter of Time found: “Young adolescents do not want to be left to their own devices. In national surveys and focus groups, America’s youth have given voice to serious longing. They want more regular contact with adults who care about and respect them.”
4 Things Youth Need From Adults
Although a dated text, Charles M. Shelton wrote a list of characteristics that adults should have when ministering to youth. Written in 1983, Shelton shared in Adolescent Spirituality: Pastoral Ministry for High School and College Youth the following that I believe still stands true of all youth today:
Availability: An encounter with an adolescent requires an openness, a presence, and real availability. There must be a certain amount of adult visibility to which a young person can turn to for conversation, questions, and support. An environment of understanding and welcome in which an adolescent feels comfortable entering that is not hurried or frenzied is important. The adult’s presence needs to be nurturing in an atmosphere where reflection, peacefulness and honest searching can occur.
Acceptance: Understanding their questions, struggles and concerns shows young people by example how God loves them for who they are. Trust, tolerance and patience are needed to allow the adolescent to make mistakes. Through penance and forgiveness, true growth can occur.
Authenticity: Youth need honesty and attentiveness. Adults need to share their own quest – the faith struggles, hopes and doubts that they also face. Youth are not looking for another “friend,” but an appropriate adult who can determine the right time and place for sharing one’s journey.
Vulnerability: In early adolescence, youth become increasingly self-conscious and aware of personal short comings and inadequacies. Adults can have a great impact on how they validate each adolescent. An adult who is not afraid to show their own weaknesses and limitations model the reality of what it means to be human.