The majority of my adult life has been spent working with young people in some shape or form and in
various capacities, from my professional work as a school teacher, counsellor and family therapist, to
mentor, foster carer, residential home carer, to years of voluntary work as a leader of young people in
my local community and church, to an observer of young people in other less privileged nations in the
world…….and over the last ten years as ‘Mum’ to my own three children.
Why? Initially I made my decision to study teaching at university because I really wanted to make a
difference in the lives of children/young people, and their families. I firmly believe that every child
deserves the chance to have a foundation of connection, love and acceptance laid in their lives by the
adults who are responsible for them. To discover their identity and purpose, to fuel them into their
future to make their difference in the world. Sadly, I learned very early in my journey of ‘making a
difference’ that this was not to be the case! There are so many and varied reasons as to why this is the
case (which I won’t go into here), but what I do want to shine the light on is how each of us really can
make a difference in the lives of those young people who are in our world, in whatever form that takes.
Along the way I’ve met many different young people. Some I’ve had the privilege of working with, others
I’ve walked alongside, while yet others again I’ve watched from a distance as an observer, wishing there
was something more I could do.
It becomes painfully obvious that our young people (for the most part) face many challenges, especially
in our Post-Modern era, that simply did not exist when I was younger. Rather than burying my head in
the sand I’ve made it my business to educate myself in such things and prepare myself in a way that
allows me to walk alongside of my own children, their friends and others along the way.
Look inside of yourself. What is the one thing at your very core that you desire? If you have a great level
of self-awareness (and you’re completely honest with yourself, even through your hurt and pain) it is
CONNECTION! Each of us crave ‘connection’ with other human beings, those who are closest to us. This
is evident in the lengths that some people will go to simply to find a place to ‘belong’. But here, I’m
talking about the heart-to-heart kind of connection that allows us to be heard, to be truly accepted, to
Regardless of the façade that many of our young people may appear to wear, they all have that one very
deep, undeniably essential need – to feel truly CONNECTED. Many people reading right now have this
unmet desire in their heart, perhaps because they’ve never felt any of those things, or maybe not felt
them for a very long time.
As adults we can sometimes become incredibly judgmental of young people, put them in a box, and
write them off as being insolent and unteachable! (Perhaps in some cases they are). However, even at
the core of those most insolent and unteachable is a core need for genuine heart to heart connection.
What does that look like? Well, what do the young people in your world love to do? It is said that ‘play’
is the currency of children. Getting down to their level. Doing what they love to do. Letting them direct
the play. Scheduling uninterrupted play-time with them frequently.
So, once they hit their teen years, what then? If the foundation has been laid and the importance has
been placed on ‘building connection’ early, then in their teen years it won’t be as difficult to maintain.
However, if you’re discovering this a little later and have missed the opportunity to build that heart
connection with your young person as a child, then it may take a little longer. But with genuine
commitment and a sincere desire to connect and find that thing that your young person loves to do (not
necessarily what you think they like to do), you can engage with them in a way that builds trust. Show
them you genuinely care. Show them that building a heart connection with them is important to you. No
judgement. None of you dictating the terms. Let them take the lead. Schedule some time in as often as
you can manage. There may well be some challenges as you begin this quest of building a ‘heart
connection’ with your young person. Persist. Don’t give up. One of the most rewarding achievements in
life is knowing that you have built a heart connection with the young people in your world which truly
does give them the best head start they could ever have – knowing that they are loved, that they
belong, and they’re truly connected to people who genuinely care for them.
This Friday, April 13, marks the beginning of Victorian Youth Week here in our state. There are activities
planned all over the state for our young people to engage in. It gives young people (aged 12-25) an
opportunity to express their ideas and views, and act on issues that affect their lives. It also gives them
an opportunity to have a whole lot of fun and celebrate the positive contributions young people make in
As we keep at the very forefront of our minds, that a genuine heart connection is the key requirement
that each of us human beings have, then perhaps we will find our compassion, empathy and
understanding grow for the young people in our world, alongside of the many obstacles, challenges AND
opportunities they face.
This coming week is simply a reminder that our young people ought to be celebrated, encouraged and
loved on 365 days a year. They are our future. They are our present. Let’s get truly connected with these
incredible human beings as we see them rise into all they’re intended to be!
With you on this journey,