"The Youth"

These little monkeys and I made caramel popcorn for our activity this Tues. Some days it's really tough to get their attention just long enough to actually do what we had planned. Other days it's like they just get up and do it themselves and then put everything away without anyone asking them to. And those days are miracle days.

Sure they always want to ride in my car or hang out or message me on Facebook, which is fun. But they are definitely teenagers with all the typical teen angst and hyperness and hormonal mood swings. Everything at this age is about "ME".

One of the older girls was telling me about this new puppy she is getting for Christmas (and her mom swore she was done with dogs, which is funny cuz now her daughter somehow talked her into that) and she was all aflutter about this little hound when her younger sister interjected to tell me about the color of its spots. It seemed harmless. They were both just sharing the same thing. But then her older sister took her hand and pushed it on the poor girls forhead to get her out of the conversation and then went on about her "totally annoying little punk of a sister". She went on about how her sister is just always there, always talking, always IN THE WAY. Poor girl just quietly accepted her older sister's complaining and went back to making the caramel corn with the others.

Being in a lower income neighborhood means it's a diverse group of kids. It's rare in Salt Lake to see almost anything but white people. These girls are Tongan, Peruvian, Chilean, Mexican, Native American, and from all sorts of other mixed people and cultural backgrounds - oh and not one, but two sets of twins. I seem to be adored by most everyone of them...except for some reason the Tongans. Big breath here.

At first I took it as shyness, but, sigh, that was not it. And I just couldn't seem to break through. This really frustrated me. How could I possibly not be cool to them? I'm sooo cool, right? (well in my head and according to the other youngsters who have been feeding my big head). But alas, they would not listen, they did not want to ride with me and they did not really want to participate in what we were doing.

So there it was...and still sort of is. Although this last Tuesday I did make some headway. This is where the "ME" factor comes in. They all have very long hair. So one of the girls innocently asked if they would ever cut it. This got us on the cultural topic of when it is and is not appropriate for them to cut their hair. Apparently they only do that at a funeral to show respect and they cannot cut it themselves and they cannot decide how short to cut it. The person closest to the casket at the funeral (person closest to the person who has passed) decides for them. They decide for all the women there and none of them, out of respect, can refuse.

So we talked about funeral customs. And, of all the things to talk about and strange as it was, that got them talking and participating. I know it's not the cure all and I will probably have to think of other things but well, it worked for now.

Side note - one of my new clients has a site called Millennial Family. He came to me in a very round about way from Utah's Sen. Chris Butters. Right now the site is getting a revamp and will be dealing with real family problems. It's going to be this new family social networking site when it officially launches (soon).

Any of you readers out there have teen advice? Can relate?


George Marie said…
I've worked with teenagers through ArtsBridge Utah. It's a program at the U. that puts graduate College of Fine Arts Students in title one high school program throughout the immediate Salt Lake valley. I discovered something very cool while working with these kids. If you take some time to step into their world and try and understand the things that they find cool, it's really easy to reach them. Ask questions. Answer theirs. At this age it IS all about them, and sometimes that's okay. At this age, this may be the only meaningful interaction that they have with an adult, a mentor figure, outside of their schooling.

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