Youth want many things. They want friends, they want freedom (closely linked to their need for independence), they want fun, they want funds, and they want fantasy.
Fantasy is driven by their idealism – they don’t want to work hard at school but they want to get rich quick. They dream about their perfect partner and about the good life, but they don’t really know how to get it.
But what youth really need is another set of words starting with the letter ‘F’: Family, fatherly figure, foundation, flavour, and a futuristic mindset. Let’s dive into each of these.
1. Youth need family
Most people understand family as a physical family unit. But I also refer to family as someone who is emotionally present for our youth and who supports them.
When children reach teenagehood, sometimes parents may tend to give up on them, thinking that they are grown up already and can manage their own problems.
It is true that they need independence, but on the flipside, they need to know that their family will always be there for them.
I know a friend with a teenage daughter who still meets her for lunch near her university campus.
This is a kind of experience that I hope to have with my children no matter whether they are teens or young adults. I want them to know that we will always have their backs, even if they’ve down something wrong.
When you give youth this kind of unconditional love and support, they tend to develop a healthy self-esteem and greater resilience to go through the hard knocks in life.
As Maya Angelou, the American poet and writer, writes: “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home. A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body”.
2. Youth need a fatherly figure
You may be wondering: Doesn’t a typical family include a dad? Why do youth need another fatherly figure?
A fatherly figure does not need to be a biological dad. He can be someone who’s older, more experienced and who’s willing and able to guide you through life.
Studies have shown that a lack of a fatherly figure can be devastating. Its effects range from poor academic performance to behavioural problems and youth crime.
I wish I had a fatherly figure when I was young. I would have made wiser choices if I had someone to help me differentiate right from wrong. But because I lacked such a person in my life, I made huge mistakes and ended up in jail.
This is why I developed a career out of being a fatherly figure to other youth. I believe that this is very crucial for many youth, so I hope to be there to build their foundations, which brings me to the third thing youth need.
3. Youth need a foundation
The best window of opportunity to build a child’s foundations is from zero to 7 years old. This is when it is easier for them to absorb information, values and beliefs. Not all is lost after this phase; it's still possible to change their values and re-establish the right foundations – through the art of storytelling.
In my coaching work, I work with youth to help them unravel and discover their purpose. Through personality profiling, real-life stories of lives transformed, I aim to help them build a stronger and more holistic foundation so they can make better decisions.
I don’t force them or nag at them or tell them what to do. Instead, my approach is to help them know who they are, help them find their purpose in life, and to help them build resilience.
There is an old saying that goes, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
4. Youth need flavour
When you think of flavour, you think of food.
Singaporeans love food, and we would travel from one end of the island to the other, in search for good food. Youth, too, need to experience the flavour of life. In other words, to be given a certain freedom to try new things, to experiment, and to be exposed to different things.
If we don’t facilitate and guide them in this process, or if we hold onto the reins too tightly, they will start to experiment on their own, which could lead to negative outcomes.
As parents, we can try to understand their interests, and be curious about what makes them tick. If they enjoy tennis, we could watch tennis matches together and learn from the masters. As a family, we can plan overseas trips together, or serve vulnerable groups, such as elderly homes or orphanages.
The key thing in all this exposure is to have fun. If it’s something interesting to them, it will likely be a valuable learning experience.
5. Youth need to think of the future
Youth don’t just need to study hard and attain good academic results, they also need to know how to plan ahead for their goals and make smarter choices.
When my children are young, we will teach them how to save money. But when they are in their teens or young adult years, my plan is to buy them shares and have conversations with them on how to make money.
I have heard a lot of parents say, “I’m working hard now so that I can give my children a better life.” But I’m afraid that all your work may amount to very little if you don’t also teach them the value of the money and the skills in managing money.
So teach them how to fish for themselves, how to invest today to achieve their goals tomorrow, and how to work hard to make an honest living. By doing these things, we are effectively future-proofing them.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Ministry of Empower's CEO David Raj is a renowned motivational speaker, author, entrepreneur, NLP Certified Master Practitioner & Life Coach, and ACTA certified trainer. He bagged two international awards in 2013 for his life excellence, mastery and service to the community. He was also honoured with a national award, Stars Of SHINE in 2010, for his notable achievements in society despite facing adversities in life. David has coached and trained thousands of Singaporeans and beyond for the past 5 years. His willpower, wisdom and strategies to overcome life’s challenges has continued to inspire many. He was recently on our Parented Podcast, sharing how we can support young people to tackle today’s challenges.
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