I’ve been working with teens for decades. Sadly, the one story I hear over and over is one of adults in positions of power belittling, provoking, or dismissing the legitimate and valid behaviors of emotionally sensitive young people. We are now beginning to realize that there is a long-term cost to this behavior; these children frequently grow into adults who exhibit symptoms typically seen with trauma. They are hyperalert to perceived threat, their nervous systems react with intensity, and their emotionally driven responses (that are often the by-product of these abusive interactions) invite conflict with greater and greater authority, strengthening the cycle.
These emotionally sensitive individuals are paying for the inappropriate behavior of adults for years. We have to put a stop to this!
Those of you who receive these monthly reflections are clearly allies for youth and believe in the benefits of strong connections with trusted adults. Let’s leverage our commitment and take it a step further if you aren’t already doing so. Respecting the rights of young people and those with mental health challenges in order to reduce and eliminate unjustified inequalities is the responsibility of all of us who interact with youth.
See an adult speak to a teen disrespectfully?
- Consider gently and kindly addressing it. Perhaps they aren’t aware of their tone and presentation.
- Educate those who don’t model respectful interactions to the potential long term
- Provide guidance and support to the young person who has fallen victim to abusive adult behaviors.
- Advocate for training within appropriate organizations to raise awareness of the importance of professional and ethical interactions with youth.
- Model the behaviors you want to see in your coworkers or community members.
- Raise awareness of this issue by talking about it with others.
We are stewards for our youth. To bring about change, we need to help those who aren’t currently hitting the target become more aware and willing to change. We’ve seen what polarization does – entrenches one side against the another. It takes guts to make change, let’s roll up our sleeves and do what it takes. If you see something, please… effectively say something.
~Britt Rathbone, LCSW-C