Photo by George Dolgikh

Taking the youth seriously is something that adults, and other young people, should be doing daily.

The Soul of Adolescence Align with the Heart of Democracy, a book on constructive critique of old paradigms about adolescence written by Alfred H. Kurland, understands and showcases why we should treat the youth as reasonable beings instead of seeing them as kids incapable of doing anything right.

Many have advocated for human rights and worked on issues of gender equality for young people. And throughout the years, two aspects have become evident. First of all, after the Year of Young People, youth engagement and consultation are gaining traction in decision-makers minds. Second, notwithstanding this enthusiasm, many people continue to feel out of their element, and substantial youth engagement still needs lots of improvement.

With that said, here’s some guidance on how to treat young people seriously — whether you’re a preacher, youth worker, or just browsing for some light reading.

Taking the Youth Seriously When Handing Over Power

This one may sound a little frightening, but trust us. Young people have been given power in a few of the most creative projects they’ve been involved in. The most innovative and inspiring ideas come from young people when they have the authority to make their own choices.

You’ll be astounded by the outcomes if you don’t hesitate to give young people the reins.

Listen to Their Voices

Though it seems straightforward, it’s crucial. Since young people lack authority and influence, young people are often not taken seriously in many spheres of life. Therefore, you must allow young people room to talk and try to listen to what they have to say because they are the hope of the future, and if you want to show interest in speaking with them.

This does not imply that young individuals should automatically receive a standing ovation for every word they utter or for us to be taking the youth seriously. It does, however, imply that when young individuals speak up, their opinions shouldn’t be treated any less highly simply because they come from the room’s youngest participant.

As Alfred H. Kurland said in his book on constructive critique of old paradigms about adolescence:

What separates co-mentors from traditional mentors is that these trusted relationships are no longer based on top-down relationship, with the adult being assumed to have exclusively valued sources of wisdom and preferable practices for governance. Co-mentors are in a side-by-side, or shoulder-to-shoulder relationship with teens, where adults respect and respond to their perspectives, knowledge and offerings given by teens… Co-mentors begin with the end in mind: Be eccentric, go forth as a navigator, and adhere to a dedication for enhancing holistic development of self and society.

There is no “Quick and Easy” Way

Although this might sound ironic, only a few people know how to engage with young people in many circumstances. Young people are given little attention, leaving them unprepared to respond straightforwardly to a question like “How do we engage with young individuals?”

Yes, there are goals you may work toward, but there will never be a magic formula for interacting with the youth. Youth participation that matters is difficult to achieve. It takes time, persistence, and slightly varied methods for various young people groups.

Don’t Underestimate a Young Person’s “Experience”

One of the most typical things the older generation always says to young people is that they don’t have much “life experience” because they’re young. They would often use this phrase in discussions to devalue valid opinions. But in reality, youngsters have a ton of “life experience” since they’re constantly being exposed to unfamiliar situations and responsibilities in the household, schools, and while working part-time.

Every young person hopes to be loved, accepted, and listened to. By putting our trust in them and taking the youth seriously, we not only help them become a better person, but we also help them mentally grow in a healthier direction.

If you wish to understand the youth further, grab a copy of Alfred H. Kurland’s book on constructive critique of old paradigms about adolescence by clicking here to visit his website!