I need your help. I was a Youth Worker in Swift Current. I am now a Behavior Consultant in Moose Jaw. As a youth worker, I was in contact with kids every day. Now, as Behavior Consultant, I work mostly with grown-ups who are confused, tired, frustrated, appalled and terrified by childhood behavior.
Realization #2 happened the other day at a city restaurant. A bunch of old car guys were talking about those "damned teenagers" and all the trouble they cause, and all the ways society changed since that '57 Chevy was new. Later that same evening, these car guys moved to the sidewalk on Main Street. No less than 12 teenagers stopped or called out their windows, some staying as long as an hour for conversation. Parents crave conversation with their kids. Teachers scramble to find topics of interest to their students. Mentors struggle to engage their children in meaningful activities. These old farts had all three without even trying - something to talk about, something mutual, something of lasting interest.
My first realization was that kids need to be actively involved in their own behavior strategies. It's their brain; they need to understand how it works.
My second realization is that it's not just about the kids and the adults directly involved in their care. It's about all of us.
I need your help. I need your help in changing the language we use to talk about teenagers. I need your help in transforming your suspicion to curiosity.
Don't curl your nose at piercings and tattoos. Ask about them. Ask him to roll up his sleeve. Admire it for the self-expression that it is.
Leave your house after 11 p.m. Sit on Main Street. Be polite and kind. Convey trust, even if you don't feel it. Half the fear you have is generated by the media, not by firsthand experience.
I need your help. If you have a natural "in" with kids, please, I beg you, embrace the gift you have to make free, genuine, spontaneous connections with kids who happen to think your hobby is unbelievably cool. You can do it informally by chatting on the street or by contacting Social Services to set up formal mentoring.
Here's my promise: I will continue working with kids and the grown-ups who serve them. But will you please do your part? Will you please help me create a culture where these kids feel safe, welcomed, appreciated, understood and valued?
Karmen Krahn Schulties, is a Consultant for Cognitive Disability Strategy in Moose Jaw.