Identify and name a young person’s strengths

What kind of children do you want to raise?

What kind of society do you want to live in?

Two great questions I have been thinking about as I finish off a draft of possibly my final book: CHOICES: Encouraging Youth to Achieve Greatness (working title). This book has taken me five years to complete and that’s partly because I have been collating all my resources and linking my experiences to the most recent adolescent brain research, as I want to offer words of encouragement and hope to anyone who reads this book.

One of the key themes of the book is developing resilient youth with the ability to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks during the life journey.

Here’s an extract from the book.

The champion resiliency coach

Whatever your role might be, you have the significant task of coaching resilient champions.

Richard Guare and Peg Dawson remind us that, “for [teenagers], anything that arouses emotion—fear of social rejection, the need to look cool, disappointing someone, disagreements with parents—can lead to less rational thinking … strong emotional reactions from parents fuel the emotional reactions of [teenagers].” That’s why the coach or mentor, as examples, create an important buffer between the teenager and the parent over an issue that typically might lead to conflict. They play that vital role of surrogate frontal lobe (especially the prefrontal cortex) whose influence is gradually reduced over time as the teenagers become more proficient and practical in using their Executive skills.”[1]

Always remember the importance of working on the basis of a developmental relationship rather than a prescriptive “I must save you” or “I can fix your problems” attitude.  Most youth will rebel against the latter attitudes, as the message you relay to them is that there’s something wrong with them, rather than, “Hey, you’re a normal teenager on this confusing journey through adolescence. I am more than happy to be an encouragement and support to you if you want me to be one of your cheerleaders.”

So, here are some key qualities for the resiliency champion coach to develop during their lifelong journey working with youth:

  • Show plenty of empathy;
  • Express consistent, non-judgmental, and unconditional caring;
  • Be an inspiration;
  • Be trusting and able to be trusted;
  • Be empowering;
  • Coach that youth have the power to create their own reality; they can take control of their lives by learning how to set personal best goals, even if these are initially small easy-to-achieve goals;
  • Meet their emotional safety needs in a non-life threatening, non-abusive, or manipulative way;
  • Be a good listener;
  • Be compassionate;
  • Be respectful;
  • Provide a mirror and model of what can be obtained which includes the important areas of sleep and nutrition;
  • Be willing to be vulnerable, flexible, and honest;
  • Guide them to understand the importance of taking time out from the internet, or texting, or social media to talk about any problems with someone they trust;
  • Share true stories—YouTube clips can help as well—as youth can be motivated and inspired by stories of how others deal with the trials of life.

[1] Guare and Dawson. Smart but Scattered Teens (2013).