Our Teens – A Closer Look!
It’s easy to look at young people today and see all them all screwed up. Too much screen time. Not motivated. Not doing well enough. Too much weed. Not valuing school. Not responsible.
I’d like to invite you into another perspective.
I know that inside them, all of them are aliveness, vitality, a desire to play huge and show up for their lives.
But, the only way you get to see this vitality is if there is a safe enough container to hold it and bring it forth. Because this aliveness comes from deep inside us – and if something that fundamental gets rejected it REALLY hurts.
It’s also conveyed through this: “Is there something about me that if others knew, would make me unworthy of love and belonging?” – Brene Brown from her TED talk on Shame.
As a teen is learning to bring that full self forward, they’re incredible vulnerable, because they haven’t learned to protect it yet.
It can’t withstand (yet) the teasing, the snickers, and the laughter, which shows up when young people are uncomfortable because of the presence of truth.
A real example
A not safe container:
In college I shared an essay about love and friendship with my philosophy class. It was honest and it was from my heart. People in the class were uncomfortable and laughed. Then they made fun of me, including the professor. The message to a vulnerable kid: that part of you that values friendship and love in the way you do is not okay.
A safe container:
I was leading a group of teens. They started sharing honestly. There was side talking, whispering, fidgeting by some of the group. One of the guys, in a seriously courageous move, called out the distracting behavior by his peers! I acknowledged him for caring enough to take such a courageous stand for all of us.
But he didn’t stop there. He proceeded to ask for a higher level of listening from everyone. Once he did that, some vulnerable stuff came out from others – insecurity about sexual identity, abuse issues, loneliness, and awareness of screen addiction (and a desire to change it). And this group of teenage boys sat for 75 minutes focused and attentive to one another – even the real fidgets.
The message to a vulnerable kid: this is a safe place for you to be yourself. We’ve got your back!
While safe containers can’t entirely shift Executive Function issues, the ability of all kids to focus when they feel safe, and there is room for them as they are, rises dramatically.
Teenagers are starving for authentic, safe connections. They have a deep and sincere desire to take on the challenging issues inside themselves and in the culture.
The hunger in them is real and powerful. Now it’s time for nourishment!
The nourishment comes when we are able, as parents, as teachers, as coaches, as mentors, as global citizens, to create real, honest, authentic spaces for connection and vulnerability. Let’s keep hanging out in these places, because if we’re there, the young people will follow.
Gratitude and Encouragement
If you question this or want to taste the hunger for aliveness in our young people watch this video and check out this song called “Closer to the Edge” from a band called “30 Seconds to Mars”.
As you do, look for the hunger in the eyes and expression of the young people being interviewed, see them searching for something real and alive (even if it’s coming out as rebellious and edgy – it shows up like that because there is no other outlet for the intensity of the feeling they’re feeling), and then also be sure to feel the intensity of the singing “I will live my life”.
Remember, the easy perspective is to see trouble in our young people. Another way to see it is to believe in the beautiful and huge desire in them to connect and share the vitality that lives in them – all of them!
Too many young people are feeling broken. They are losing hope and motivation to make something of their lives. They need models and examples so they know that a healthy, thriving adulthood is out there and available for them. And they need help waking up the desire to make it happen. Thank you to all of you who are doing this! I hear them begging us to keep going!
If you’re wondering, what can I do, how do I help, how do I deepen my contribution, you can join me in making my HW to do something courageous today, and each day, to make sure I’m hanging out in those uncomfortable, but alive, places and working to see, understand, and bring out the beauty and gifts in each of our young people!
Morgan Rich is a relentless champion for teen’s aliveness and vitality. He is an “in the trenches” guide, coach, role model, & facilitator committed to the messy and beautiful work of growing up. He is a committed, playful, and always learning friend, son, father, and husband.
His work with families is guided by his own difficult and alternative journey to discover and deliver his gifts of empathetic listening, finding the uniqueness in people, and seeing the positive in tough situations.
He is the author of an essential guide to navigate the Launch from adolescence to adulthood – Launch Your Life. His program Survive & Thrive: physical, emotional, and spiritual training for our teen boys is a powerfully honest and deep place for teen boys to be teen boys with their strength and vulnerability. Morgan also leads and guides Find Your Path, a 4-day outdoor Rites of Passage experience that creates memorable transitions for phases of teen (and adult) development.
He is one of the founders of the Portland Men’s Council, loves yoga, hanging with friends and family, and swimming behind waterfalls. You might see and hear him riding his bike around Portland while singing old, native songs that love to be sung. Click here to find Morgan in the JST Directory and connect with him.