How to Give Young People the Right Advice
Today in Canada, two out of three young adults are leaving the church as they transition out of high school. It can be so difficult to know how to support young people who are struggling to find their faith and their footing. We all want to give the right advice.
Asking the right questions
Jacob walked into my classroom last fall with passion and enthusiasm. He was determined to score high on his assignments because he told me his grandma would let him have it if he didn’t. She was the woman who cared. Only weeks into the school year Jacob’s enthusiasm dropped and his attendance tanked.
There was a noted change. I was getting frustrated with this unusual lack of engagement, his inconsistent attendance, and frankly, his attitude. However, voicing my frustration wasn’t motivating him to change (go figure).
One question without assumptions or judgment can transform a relationship and change the direction of a life: Jacob, are you ok?
Jacob’s grandma had died. Jacob didn’t finish the semester with the success he’d imagined, but he did finish. He stayed curious about himself, his own life, his goals and hopes, and he decided to keep moving forward. In a sense, he picked up the pen, and decided to write his own grade ten story. Jacob’s courageous effort would have made his grandma proud.
That same fall, Joy walked into my math classroom wanting to hide in the back of the room. I noticed Joy’s arm was pulled inside her sweater, and I asked her if she had hurt her arm.
At my question, Joy bolted out of the room in tears. I learned later that Joy’s arm had been amputated. Joy is a brave cancer survivor and my question had completely embarrassed her.
Later that day, I found her and spoke with her. She was angry. She could have asked to be removed from my class forever (I’m pretty sure she was tempted).
We talked for a long while and I was able to explain my mistake. Our conversation that day began an incredible relationship.
Later in the semester, I asked Joy to speak at an event where her story inspired hundreds of youth from across the province. She chose to own her story and tell it. Real connection can only come through writing our true stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly.