This is a time in history when we have opportunities to make concrete changes for a better world for our young persons. All of us need to reframe our narrative, stop the ‘blame game’ and act.
1. Parents: remember that you do not have all the skills to help your children to become the best they can. When there are challenging behaviors, do you seek unashamed help for them? is there a mentor or role model, a big brother/big sister, or a youth group engaged in their lives? Are you spending quality time with your teenagers? Do you know where they are when you are not at home? Do you really listen and close your lips when they want to talk with you?
What needs to change? Does your son or daughter feel valued and loved?
2. Government and charitable groups: when you have given grants to enhance the lives of our youth, do you follow up with measured outcomes and provide sustained programs and support? Most grants seem to have one-time support attached and no further follow-up. The youth then falls through the crack as no further supports are provided.
What are the sustained changes you need to make to engage communities and youth?
3. Society: Why do some aspects of our society devalue youth by just looking at them and judging the ‘book” by its cover? For example, “you are Black, you are going to become a criminal”. Why do you make bigoted, hateful, ignorant comments? These comments send powerful messages to young people, often making them feel devalued, dehumanized, traumatized by racism, and seeking out the gangs where there is always violence. With the rage and anger, they have inside themselves, they become involved in senseless brutality.
Conclusion for these thoughts:
Parents: Unashamed help is available.
Governments of all levels: Fund sustained grants; work with communities through their cultural lens and see better outcomes.
Society: Young people are often learning from the adults around them. Society is changing and each and every one of us must do our part to ensure that youth become productive adults. They are our future. They need education, housing, and skills to access reliable jobs.
Readers: What way do you individually, parent groups, schools and communities, plan to engage in change? Adolescent violence has reached a crisis level in our communities.
Norma is a retired nurse and community youth advocate who has led multidisciplinary healthcare teams to provide holistic care for incarcerated youth in the largest secure youth custody in Ontario.
She can speak to the disparities and what needs to be changed.