The truth is that adolescents, despite occasional or numerous protests, need adults and want them to be part of their lives, recognizing that they can nurture, teach, guide, and protect them on the journey to adulthood.Directing the courage and creativity of normal adolescents into healthy pursuits is part of what successfully counseling, teaching, or mentoring an adolescent is all about.
The number of foreign-born in the United States grew 44% between 1990 and the 2000. Unfortunately, many of the studies of adolescents reported in the scientific literature have looked only at White middle-class adolescents (Lerner & Galambos, 1998; Ohye and Daniel, 1999).A growing number of households in the United States include individuals who were born in other countries.Immigrants enter the United States for diverse reasons; some may be escaping a war-torn country, just as others are in the country to pursue an advanced education.Efforts are made to move to a new way of understanding and working with adolescents in the context of larger systems (Lerner & Galambos, 1998); although working with adolescents and families is critical, systemic change is sometimes needed to safeguard adolescent health.Also at the heart of is the theme that today’s adolescent needs one thing that adults seem to have the least surplus of—time. Council of Economic Advisers, teens rated “not having enough time together” with their parents as one of their top problems. A crosscutting theme, regardless of one’s professional role, is the need to communicate effectively with youth.Despite the negative portrayals that sometimes seem so prevalent—and the negative attitudes about adolescents that they support—the picture of adolescents today is largely a very positive one.
Most adolescents in fact succeed in school, are attached to their families and their communities, and emerge from their teen years without experiencing serious problems such as substance abuse or involvement with violence.
It takes time to listen and relate to an adolescent. This report also indicates that adolescents whose parents are more involved in their lives (as measured by the frequency of eating meals together regularly, a simple measure of parental involvement) have significantly lower rates of “problem behaviors” such as smoking, alcohol or marijuana use, lying to parents, fighting, initiation of sexual activity, and suicidal thoughts and attempts (U. Adolescents will not simply “open up” to adults on demand.
Effective communication requires that an emotional bond form, however briefly, between the professional and the adolescent.
It may take a number of sessions of nonjudgmental listening to establish the trust needed for a particular adolescent to share with an adult what he or she is thinking and feeling.
It may take even longer before an adolescent feels comfortable asking an adult for help with an important decision.
Having an understanding of normal adolescent development can help professionals be effective communicators with young people.