Prior to the conversation, I had noticed that there is so much focus on systems and institutions such as healthcare, the government and law enforcement. It felt as if young people were being left out and there were not enough conversations and focus on their lives. It’s important to provide space and resources to prepare our young people for a positive and meaningful future.
We discussed meaningful connections with family, friends and community and making sure young people have access to online and in-person interaction.
In addition, it’s important to support young people in lessening contact with a friend or family member that does not serve them.
The biggest concern for teens and young adults appears to be access to mental health services. Many of their friends are not getting help or are unsure of how to access it. It is important that schools and communities provide telehealth, in-person and sliding scale services to make sure that no one gets left out. How do schools, hospitals and clinics pool their resources and staff to make sure this care is accessible to all, especially in rural areas?
-Make sure the young people in your life have the appropriate education, training and skills to feel confident about their future. Not everyone can go from high school to college. Some want to take a year off to work and research what type of schooling or training works for them. Support their process of exploration.
-Show appreciation for the accomplishments of young people and their skill and savvy in technology and how this is impacting the world for the better. They will continue to make contributions big and small in the digital age.
-Have discussions with young people about the golden opportunity that awaits them to start new traditions and ways of thinking. What worked in the past or for older people -may not be the way of their future. They can use these disruptions in our world to think about the way they want their life to be.
-Reassure teens and college students that they will catch up on their schooling that slowed or got disrupted during the pandemic. I always hear, “we are behind” and it is “difficult to catch up.” Focus on helping and prioritizing so that they can feel and accomplish small steps to complete any homework or learning that needs to be done to feel they are “catching up.”
These suggestions that my cousin and her daughter discussed, can take time and patience. Being available to listen and create space to support young people and also to make sure they know they can talk to the adults in their life. This will help all of these life suggestions to become a reality.
Finally, remember to always take time to relax and have fun.
Kay Gimmestad, LCSW-C is a business coach and clinician in New York City with 20 years of experience working in the profit and not for profit sectors of Human Resources, Health and Human Services. She has built a reputation for being highly skilled in facilitating behavior change while working with employees, both individually and in groups, on matters relating to performance management, substance abuse, crisis intervention, and stress/wellness.