It has always taken a “village” to raise young people and it always will. The needs of developing children are greater than any one family can provide. When I was growing up, we lived in the village–close to relatives and friends that were permitted to praise, cajole, counsel and love us. Today, because of numerous reasons, many youth are not growing up in a village. As I watch this generation of youth become more anxious by the day I’m confident that one contributing factor is the dwindling presence of meaningful adults in their lives.
When I counsel pre-teens and teens I ask them to hold up one hand and point to each of five fingers naming a significant adult other than his parents he can go to for help if necessary. Most kids can’t name five people. I could have named at least ten when I was a teenager. As dysfunctional as my family was (and still is) I knew of at least ten adults a phone call away I could call for help–aunts, uncles, grandparents, coaches, cousins, clergy and family friends. Most teens don’t have this rich network of adult assets in their lives and don’t have the ego strength or skills to create one. That’s where we come in.
What You Can Do
In the absence of a natural “village” we must help youth create a healthy diversified support network of caring, safe adults. Some possibilities include:
- encouraging your child to talk to one or two of his teachers he or she likes.
- emailing a specific teacher, counselor, coach or minister to request that they informally check in on your child.
- asking an adult relative to take your child out to lunch or for coffee.
- Making sure they are involved in at least one extra-curricular activity at school (or in some cases out of school)
Even when no “formal” counseling takes place, something even more important occurs. The child senses, albeit unconsciously, they are cared about. Although not able to articulate it, they sense they are part of a “village” that cares about them enough to check in on them and invest time in them.