Safety to Be!
Young people are up against obstacles and challenges that continue to try and rob them of their God given identities, gifts, and talents. Young people are navigating complex lives and uncharted territory. Societal pressures such as, drugs, alcohol, and gang culture, and peer pressure. They deal with personal struggles within their mental health, sexual orientations, and self-image and confidence on the day to day basis. According to “The Confidence Code for Girls” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, girl’s confidence levels drop by 30% between the ages of 8 and 14, more than half feel pressure to be perfect, and 3 in 4 worry about failing.
This obvious issue with self-worth and value coupled with navigating a pandemic, and constantly witnessing slaughtering of Black folks on television and social media could be a recipe for anyone to commit suicide, have suicidal ideations, and simply struggle to be and belong. I believe one of the most effective methods of lowering suicide rates within our teenagers is cultivating safe spaces and sense of belonging. We spend a lot of time telling young people what is wrong and what they “should” be doing and not enough time affirming them and allowing them to be.
Adults often time have such a short-term memory of who we were when we were teenagers. The truth is, we made the same mistakes, we didn’t want anyone telling us anything, and we simply just wanted to be. We didn’t want to be “policed” by our parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, or anyone with an opinion. Although we may be wiser and sometimes we may know better, let’s spend more time protecting them, protecting their curiosity, protecting their decision-making process, protecting their hearts, and protecting their dreams.
Let’s not be so quick to judge and condemn the things that they do, that may be out of the ordinary or unfamiliar to you. Let’s seek to understand where they are, before we dismiss and condemn. Dare I say, let’s celebrate their youth, their ability to make positive choices or learn from their mistakes, their uniqueness, and their journey.
Before, giving your opinion or “laying down the law,” ask yourself, Am I being a safe space for this young person? Am I cultivating a safe space for this young person? How have I recently attempted to understand this young person? Do I want them to fear and respect me, more than I want them to trust and feel safe with me? Is it possible for me to cultivate a space where they are free to respect, trust, and feel safe? Who did I become when I had a safe space? What did I accomplish when I was affirmed and supported? Who they become and what they accomplish is limitless with a community of support and folks affirming who they are at their core.