As National Youth Week comes to a close for another year it seems timely to reflect on some of the knowledge and skills that young people have shared with us this term.
The theme for 2015’s celebration of young people is, It starts with us. This is a celebration that we want to be a part of over here at SKATTLE because it aligns with our hopes for working with children and young people. We’re inspired by a vision that sees children and young people being supported to navigate life-changing experiences by connecting with their communities in ways that:
- Focus on their intentions and strengths;
- Have them feeling heard and acknowledged; and
- Recognise and value their potential.
Term 1 of 2015 has seen us meet and work with several school communities. While we’re often invited to work with groups of young people in response to experiences of hardship or challenges, it’s very important to us that we enter this work while holding on to the belief that every person and every community has skills and knowledges that can contribute to the creation of healthy communities. We’ve found that acknowledging and encouraging young people to talk about their success stories, about their strengths and skills, makes for a very different atmosphere than focussing on talk that is problem orientated – so much more is possible.
One group of young people that we met came together because of a shared experience of living in foster care or kinship care. We heard how this experience has had a variety of effects on these young people, including:
- having to make new friends;
- getting used to new teachers and classrooms;
- living with different members of their family or with people who are strangers;
- having to get used to new people and places;
- feeling anger, sadness, confusion or fear;
- showing that they are “peed off” by yelling or swearing;
- having trouble sleeping; and
- wanting time to themselves to calm down.
When hearing about these effects, we heard that there are some things that are okay for the young people in the group, and others that are not. The way they made decisions about what was okay and what wasn’t made us think that they had some special knowledge about what is important to them. They named three values of theirs, telling us that they want to be people who can:
Be Proud of Our Families. Stand up for Ourselves. Be Responsible.
Hearing this got us asking about how members in the group had been able to hold on to these hopes. There are some special skills and knowledge that these young people have drawn on to cope with tricky times in the past and to keep moving towards their hopes. These skills include:
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Just as National Youth Week is about noticing and celebrating the contribution that young people make to our communities, we hope that continuing to share some of the stories of skills and knowledge that we are honoured to hear might keep the word out about the inspiring ways that young people are dealing with the challenges that come their way. This week and every week.
Written by Peta Ward, SKATTLE Counsellor & Trainer