From our beginning, Camp Fire has supported and encouraged youth voice. We know that for kids and teens to really thrive, we must invest in who they are right here and right now – not just their future potential.
Part of that investment is creating an environment in which they can ask questions and express their ideas and opinions about the things that affect them every day.
In March and April, many of our youth will lift their voice to show their frustration, fear, grief and anger. The way we respond or react will send a message to them about how we value their opinion, fears, and sentiments.
It can be difficult not to immediately react when our children speak out from place of fear, pain, or anger. The part of our minds that never wants to see a child suffer or struggle will tell us to immediately “fix” the problem. We may get defensive and argumentative when a kid is speaking out of anger or frustration. It is easy to want to immediately “do” something.
Camp Fire does want you to do something!
Not just listen to respond, but listen to hear. We must be activeand responsible listeners to the voices of our kids and teens. This is imperative in every setting in which we find ourselves: the classroom, in the car on the way to school, at the dinner table, on the playground, in afterschool programs, and at camp.
The way we listen will speak louder than our voices ever could.
How can you respond in a way that says to them, “I hear you. I am listening, and I am ready to talk this through with you.” How can we react when we aren’t receiving the response we may have wanted, in a way the keeps the door open and doesn’t shut down the conversation?
When we listen to hear, and not just listen to react, we facilitate growth, encourage critical thinking, and allow kids to work through and understand what they are feeling. If your child is expressing their anger, talking emotionally and passionately, do not be afraid of their anger. Instead, acknowledge their right to be angry or scared, THEN ask questions that got towards what they see as solutions.
Giving a child in your life a platform to verbalize what they are thinking and feeling is essential to cultivating a growth mindset, which is a key to their success now and in the future. And seeing our children succeed is something I know we all want. This is not only true for middle school and high school aged kids – elementary age children are extremely perceptive to the emotions and conversations of the people around them. If their older siblings are afraid or upset, they will take on the emotions easily as well. It is important to allow them space to work through their anger and fear as well.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, or any adult who comes in contact with youth, Camp Fire encourages you during these walkouts and marches to ask questions that further conversation and facilitate dialogue. Ask questions like:
- I can see how strongly you feel about this. Tell me more about why this is important to you…
- What are the steps you would like to see your school and adults in your life to do?
- What do you think the solutions are? What do you want to see?
- What’s it like at your school? What do your friends think?
- What are you hearing or seeing?
- What can I do to support you?
- What makes you feel hopeful?
- What else do you care about?
Questions like this will eliminate barriers, demonstrate how much you care, and will encourage the open and honest conversations that you seek the young people in your life!