Supporting tweens and teens takes time, albeit, it seldom has to do with how much time you can give them. Being in education, you can expect a teacher to have a curriculum, a rubric, and a progress report, all of which occur in the space of semesters. It works nicely for academics, but it is entirely different when it comes to life. By life, I mean all the things our youth experience outside of the classroom. It would be great to be able to help a student unpack their “trials and tribulations” backpack, sort it out and repackage it nice and neat, in a designated time frame. I can assure you, however, this is often not the case and that this process is trickier and timelier than one thinks. Ironically, it is rarely because of the time you have available, and everything to do with “personal timing”. Meaning, it will happen eventually…“all in due time”.
So, what makes the timing so personal? Well, the obvious; maturity, readiness, ownership, insight, priority, emotional intelligence, extended support systems, etc. It can also be due to family/social stressors, learning barriers, unexpected life events, mental health considerations, and physical health. We know our youth have a lot going on. Knowing that students will sometimes consciously or unconsciously defer, “self-work”, inadvertently makes my work (and can be yours too) about instilling hopefulness and encouragement for this happening in the future and not setting it to “our time frame”. Simply, help them have a good experience during their time with you. This occurs in many ways:
Don’t push too hard, but don’t give up, look for natural opportunities to keep the conversation going.
Remind them of “open doors”. (my door is always open)
When listening/talking about difficult topics remain neutral, positive, empathetic.
Set a clear stage for how to access support in the future when they are ready.
Clearly explain how different supports can be helpful in a variety of ways.
Encourage self-care routines and the practice of them more often. (strengthen the foundation for future work)
Instead of focusing on “problems”, shift to the mindset of “self-work” for becoming one’s “best self”.
Be relatable, light-hearted, and story tell.
Be exceptional role models about your own self-care.
I would love nothing more than to have students who maneuver difficulties overcome them and leave here to go deeper into the world, wiser and stronger for it. However, I have learned that benefitting from the helping process is like climbing a staircase. It is necessary to have good footing each step along the way. While some race up to the top quickly and with ease, others need to go slower, or stop and rest along the way before reaching their destination. I want to ensure that no matter what point they are on, that when they are on my “step”, I make it count. Let us all consider that during these days of “growing and climbing” that we respect the process, individual timing, and most importantly the individual.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” Siddhartha Gautama