As an experienced school administrator, life long educator, and now a certified life coach, I have been privileged to work with thousands of students from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic conditions. Attending school in and of itself was often hard for some. It was not just a juggling act to pay attention, complete assignments and study for tests; it took superhero feats of strength to deal with all the other pressures they faced.
As our culture moves forward with lightning speed, young people are caught up in the crossfire. They live in a culture of bombardment, one where their day begins and ends with having to endure a continual stream of pressure. Academic concerns, peer issues, extracurricular activities, familial relationships, and social media are overloading their young minds. While some of this pressure is unavoidable, there is one key aspect of their lives they need, and that is:
Someone to listen, and I mean genuinely listen to them.
There are well-meaning parents, foster parents, teachers, coaches and school counselors who have opportunities to listen daily. But it must be done with the intent to hear and reflect on what it means. Even as adults our moods change, flat tires happen on the way to work, and we get yelled at by a boss. Our minds are more developed and hopefully more capable of processing the ebb and flow of pressure and change. To that end, it is crucial to recognize that:
Youth are longing to be heard, even if they don't act like it.
Listening is at the core of my profession as a life coach. So often, we listen, but at a surface level. We hear the person, but we may be distracted or multi-tasking. Understanding someone's words at a deep, empathetic and meaningful level takes time. It involves seeing things from their point of view and identifying the emotions they are feeling. We need to imagine ourselves where kids are and work to understand the pressure they may be experiencing.
Effective listening tips:
-Spend time every day listening to youth in your home, school or sphere of influence.
-Pick up on negative cues in speech or behavior.
-Take self-sabotaging thoughts seriously.
-Find mentors to help the young people you know.
Having a listening ear is crucial. Imagine how a person's life can change when someone is there, investing, just with their ears. It may make all the difference and doesn't cost a thing.