Encourage young people to…
Connect and reach out for help
We know that many young people who may need help are not getting it or not asking for it, for a variety of reasons, so encouraging help seeking is important. Encourage young people to join clubs or engage in group activities where they can meet like-minded people and share their interests.
When we exercise the brain releases feel good hormones called endorphins which make us feel good so getting active really can make us feel better. Many young people are living very sedentary lifestyles, sitting in front of the computer screen for hours on end. So when encouraging them to get active we should start small and suggest baby steps. It could be walking to a friend’s house instead of taking the bus or getting a lift, walking the dog or going for a cycle. If young people can find an activity they enjoy doing - even better as they will be much more likely to keep it up.
Encourage young people to take notice of the sights, smells, sounds and tastes they experience as well as the thoughts and feelings that arise from moment to moment. It’s very easy to go through daily life without stopping to notice the world around us, but taking notice is very important for our mental wellbeing. We can spend a large proportion of our time in our heads, but by doing something as simple of taking notice of the feeling of our feet in our shoes can bring us back to our body, and the present, if only for a moment.
Feeling that they have contributed to decisions that affect their life can be really empowering for a young person, whether this is through sitting on their student counsel in school or using their talents to help organise a local event. These experiences can also act as real confidence boosters.
We know that one of the key ingredients in helping young people make a healthy transition to adulthood is having real and meaningful opportunities for involvement and membership. This can also give them opportunities to try out some of the adult roles they will face in the future, e.g. allow them to make age appropriate decisions (such as giving them a say in what subjects to take in school) and take on leadership roles (such as through sports, school committee, organising an event).
Getting involved in groups, clubs and their community will also foster a sense of belonging in young people, which is key to positive mental health.
Research shows that ‘doing good is good for you’, so perhaps inspiring a young person to find ways to lend support or help out another person will make them feel good about themselves. They might do something nice for a friend or neighbour, thank someone or even just smile. Getting involved in volunteer projects can be a good way for young people to meet new people and learn new skills while giving something back.
Listening is easy, right? We can all be guilty of assuming that we’re good listeners, but listening is harder than it seems. It requires concentration, time and effort.
How can I be a good listener?
1. Listening more than you talk is a good starting point. It may sound obvious, but being a good listener is a skill and takes effort – it doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
2. Give people time. Again this may seem obvious, but it’s critical to really give young people time and attention if you want them to experience you as a good listener. If you are not in a position to listen attentively to a young person it is better to tell them and try to find a better time.
3. Don’t judge. Young people often feel judged by adults, or fear that they will be judged by adults, so they don’t tell us what it really going on in their lives. A related trap we can fall into is jumping to conclusions. Once we start jumping to conclusions we have stopped listening, as rather than hearing the story from the young person we are making up the ending in our own minds. So don’t fall into these traps – keep an open mind, and allow your ears to really hear what is being said, not what you think is being said or will be said, based on your past experience of young people.
Simple things to do (and not do) if you are concerned about a young person...