(This post was originally published on March 12th, 2019 on Live Well Lamoille.)
By: Jessica Bickford, Coordinator, Healthy Lamoille Valley
One of the things I love most about my work is connecting with students. Recently I had the opportunity to meet with three Lamoille Valley students. As part of our conversation, I asked them what they wished adults knew… Here’s what they had to say:
“Depression, anxiety, and insecurity are real in our lives.” While adults struggle with these things, our students are experiencing them, often for the first time, without the tools that adults have learned. As adults, we need to acknowledge these feelings as real and very pressing. Students have limited life experiences to reference and are making life-altering decisions that will shape the rest of their lives. Honor these feelings and be there to help.
Similarly, “Stress is real.” There are a lot of things that youth have to manage. Create opportunities to develop skills and habits to manage stress. These can be simple things: talking, listening to music, going for a walk/run, journaling, creating art, physical activity, and learning to know what you can do and how to say “no.” This last concept is key… youth don’t want to let anyone down… friends, teachers, parents… it’s easy for them to over-commit to avoid hurting others’ feelings. Learning to look at their schedules, balance their time, and say “no” gracefully are important life skills.
“Recognize that we have different personalities and enjoy different things. Provide opportunities to develop our unique skills.” Many students like to help, but as adults, we should be aware of their personalities and interests and find ways to meet those interests and build those skills. As an example, one person may love to speak and be out front while another enjoys helping behind the scenes. Embrace their personalities!
I encourage you to take time to ask the youth in your life, “What do you wish the adults in your life know about being a teen?” or “Life seems pretty stressful right now, how can I support you better?” Then really listen and find ways to show that you heard them. When you do this, you’re building protective factors* for youth. You’re showing them that they matter and opening up opportunities for future conversations!
* Healthy Lamoille Valley is a substance abuse prevention coalition working to reduce youth substance abuse. Find out more at healthylamoillevalley.org. Youth who have strong protective factors are less likely to rely on substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana to manage stress or find value.
Jessica Bickford works as a Coordinator of Healthy Lamoille Valley, where she has enjoyed writing for their blog. Writing for Copley’s community blog is a natural extension of this experience! Healthy Lamoille Valley focuses on making healthy choices easy choices, realizing that when we have access to healthy options we are less likely to choose behaviors that are harmful. Prevention is really a lifestyle of wise choices that enable us to live life to the fullest.