Spend time with young people! We and indeed young people are so caught up with life’s distractions that sitting down and having one to one conversations with each other is almost a thing of the past. Social media tools (too many to mention!) have taken over the way we communicate and converse with each other, leaving the heart to heart, face on face, me and you moments a thing of the past. Yes, we do speak to each other, but it’s always in short spurts, rarely focused and sincere, with a mobile telephone beside us or in our hand, ready to sound ‘lonely’ and take our attention away from ‘that conversation’ and making the person we are speaking to, second best and least important.
Plan deliberate time to spend with young people. It may have gone to the stage that we have to put time in our diaries so as to plan when we need to give someone our undivided attention, but if you have to do this, then you have to do it. Whether it be in the mornings, afternoons, evenings or weekends, 30-45 minutes of one to one conversations would be great. 45 minutes of conversation with someone is a long time, but leave an hour just in case it goes over; it usually does.
Volunteer to go on a committee that has a focus on young people activities. With so many great people setting up clubs and activities for young people, there are so many to chose from. Organizers of these clubs, whether they be in sport, activities, other young people interests are always looking for volunteers to help out. It is a great way of meeting other like-minded parents, as well as working with and spending time with young people.
Help a young person through a challenge. We all know the many challenges our young people are facing today. Some of us have / are experiencing them first hand. Offer to help young people with their personal, physical challenges. The first and main thing you can do is listen. Listening skills are critical when it comes to young people i.e. giving them your total undivided attention as they talk to you, with sincere, empathetic eye contact. This will go a long way in helping them.
Research and understand young people’s interest and what keeps them motivated. Yes, I can hear you say, that they can be sometimes difficult even impossible to understand, please and motivate. But when you analyse it, this is only the marginal few. Many young people are open to sharing and taking advises from you. Again you just need to listen, but obviously first ask them.
Share your job with them and allow them shadow you for a day. During secondary school especially, students experience the world of work through work experience in Transition Year or Fifth Year. If you are asked to participate, do say Yes. if you are not asked and know young people who would benefit from knowledge of your job or shadowing you, take the initiative and invite them to ‘come to work with you’. You will feel so much the better for it afterwards.