Young people are incredibly brave, it’s time for us to follow suit by truly listening

Young people sat on steps

Since joining Platfform over a year ago, I have had a lot to think about and reflect upon. It’s hard to describe how alive I feel when I think about the values and approaches because for me joining Platfform has been like finding home; a place where people think and feel the same way as I do about human beings and broken systems.

I have loved every moment in which my thinking has been challenged, each time an assumption I held has been shattered, each new revelation that has opened my eyes further. What I have loved the most, is the depth of learning and insight I’ve gained from listening to children and young people talk about life and the essence of wellbeing.

Can I ask you; when was the last time you sat in a room with a group of young people and paused to contemplate how much potential, greatness and power is simmering below the surface?

Have you ever really thought about the collective reach and possibilities, the tremendous impact they can and will have on society and our world? Do you consider their worth? Their immeasurable value? If you think about these things, then it’s impossible to escape the overwhelming responsibility we have as adults (as parents, teachers, professionals, services, systems) to pave a way for children and young people to become empowered.

I believe the best way for us to fulfill this responsibility by listening to young people and championing their voice.

I’m not sure that they need us to ask them to be braver, I think they need us to listen, observe and acknowledge how brave they already are in a world of evolving challenges.

Asking young people to be more resilient or braver is not enough, even when we do our utmost to equip them with skills and strategies for wellbeing. We only need to take a look at the environment and world they are living in, spend time trying to truly understand their experiences, what enhances their wellbeing and what hinders them to understand this.

As a society, we have a good idea about the essentials for wellbeing, a plethora of theory for child development and a range of psychological and therapeutic interventions to assist at points of crisis. Young people’s voices is the missing piece of this puzzle, we need to take off our adult-tinted glasses and step into their world with compassion and curiosity to truly understand. This cannot be a one-time exercise, but an ongoing process as life is forever changing and we need to be in touch with the reality of children and young people’s experiences.

When a young person bravely speaks out about how they found their local services to be unhelpful, or how they don’t want to learn how to “clam down”, they just want the arguing at home to stop, or how four sessions of school counselling didn’t help their family escape poverty….we need to LISTEN.

I want to challenge myself and others to really listen, not the tokenistic tick box listening but the BRAVE kind of listening that leads to action and social change.

Children and young people are already resilient (even more so when they have good relationships around them), they are brave beyond measure (even when they shouldn’t have to be) and when they connect with each other (which is the basis of our peer support programmes) something magical happens as they speak out for each other and encourage each other to continue with the “fight” and to realise how valuable and strong they are.

So please if a young person gives you a nugget of wisdom, if they give you the gift of insight into their world… don’t dismiss the possibility that they could change the world. Stay curious and do everything within your power to be a platform for change for ALL children and young people. It’s their turn to call us to our own acts of bravery.