Hey, do you remember when you were, say, twelve, fifteen years old?
The answer is probably yes. However, like all memories, these are reworked in light of today’s point of view and the experience gained in the meanwhile.
It is not difficult to get back with your mind and emotions to those years. Yet, why is it so complicated to be able to make proposals for teenagers and pre-adolescents?
Many people ask themselves that question: parents, teachers and that particular category of educators who are the instructors of any discipline.
Anyone who has any responsibility for groups of minors can see how, as we move from childhood to adolescence, attendance in group activities generally becomes increasingly rarefied.
There obviously seem to be some exceptions: groups that have a strong sense of belonging and that aim to “give back” to young people some form of personal gratification in the form of awards for competitions won, show less fragmentation.
However, it is nothing but a bias due to the large numbers. In effect, the percentage of dropouts and continuous interruptions in attendance is comparable in every group. Obviously what changes is the starting user base, which for team sports will certainly be much larger than that of the group of the “Lodge of young collectors of Sanskrit books”…
To effectively communicate something to someone, you need three fundamental ingredients: clear content, an appropriate communication channel and…Someone to communicate to.
It is not that obvious that one knows what to say, when and how to say it and to whom. There are examples of communication “epic fails” at all levels.
If you want to propose something to teenagers it is obvious that you need to know what to propose. But first of all: what do we know about them, other than that they exist?
How do they live their day? What do they think? How do they express it? On what channels? How do they socialize? Where do they look for information? How do they communicate with each other?
These are just a few questions and we think that having a precise answer would be an act of great presumption.
Working with -and in- schools helps to activate a first contact with the environment in which young people spend a large part of their organized life. And, all in all, if the activities are carried out in coordination with the school or in its sports facilities, a good group can be built.
But, in such conditions, the adolescent finds himself attending an initiative still strongly influenced by the inertia of habit. An updated version of the same pack with which an elementary school child is sorted among the many activities of the week.
This is so true that, at fairs and in outdoor training in parks, it often happens that a parent approaches, often with his/her kid, to ask for information. The most classic of situations is that the parent – often single – is looking for an educational support to stimulate a teen in full spleen to take an interest in something.
It’s not easy being twelve, thirteen years old, having gone through a two-year interruption in social life. It is not easy to be the recipient of a school education that is lacking, despite the big, big efforts of many teachers.
It is not easy to experience certain traumas and observe the weakness of your family members when you have not yet understood your own.
It is not easy to understand the need to relate in the real world when the virtual world is so pervasive and a seemingly simpler shortcut.
The result is that the parent gets excited and would start the class right away. Yet, as a single, the parent couldn’t attend the class because she/he has to stay at home to look after the kid.
She/he would also come together with her/his son/daughter. But the teenager would never practice with a parent.
So the teenager comes, quite listlessly, for that couple of trials, animated more by the desire to show the parent that she/he was right in telling to forget it, that dropping before starting would be the only answer.
And the story ends there, to take usually strange -yet real- forms of alternative socialization, in which the constant is the lack of adult supervision.
Drawing on your memories as a teenager helps you remember an extreme age. Mind and body blossom and so do desires that often turn into ambitions because they collide with the limits of a society for which “you are not yet ready”. And in fact you’re not, even if you don’t exactly understand why.
So the first ingredient to try to get in touch with the world of teenagers is certainly respect.
Also a respect for reality: for kids, we are generally all “boomers“. Kind of aliens trying to teach an ant to build a spaceship.
Speaking two different languages is not easy.
Yet we must make every effort to get in the channels and places of communication used by young people. They will always have areas in which they will be able to exclude adults, exactly as we -and those before us- did, since the dawn of time.
But when we were lucky enough to meet adults on our path who we felt loved us; who managed to talk to us and prove that they understood us; who were aware of the trends we followed, of what we liked…Something good happened there for us.
It is therefore a question of rethinking on the one hand what, of what we can say, is truly useful to say to young people.
It is necessary to think about teaching, training and finalization methodologies that can be useful for their experience. Not to our memories.
And you need to professionalize communication, handling what the people you want to talk are accoustomed to.
Incidentally, according to a TPI report from August 2023, young people now do not use Google to search for information but platforms like TikTok.
Maybe it’s time to wake up.
Disclaimer: Picture from Pixabay