At the heart of youth empowerment is the belief that young people have infinite potential. When young people are exposed to the right opportunities to build their confidence, they are capable of uplifting their communities. Youth that become leaders stand firm in their values, have the confidence to take risks, and are empowered to advocate for themselves and others. Leading with empathy, their impact can be immeasurable.
Youth look to those around them as allies in their development. Parents, teachers and youth group leaders can serve as invaluable mentors for budding leaders. Here are a few ways you can empower the young people in your life:
Be an active listener.
Meet youth where they are. Remember kneeling to get eye-to-eye with a toddler? It’s the same principle. Meeting youth where they are is about being privy to their needs and individual strengths. Forget platitudes. Active listening builds connections, shows youth that they belong, and that their opinions matter.
Be a mentor.
Experience is a great teacher. It’s our responsibility to help youth develop the skills and discipline to take our place in society. Give them honest feedback and generous, purposeful coaching. And remember to model the behaviors that you want them to develop.
Help teens stay curious. When teens are encouraged to explore a variety of interests and topics, they start to unlock their potential. It also gives them the opportunity to tap into their courage, identify their strengths, and hone in on their skills.
Teach risk management.
Youth manage risk better when there are set rules and boundaries. Giving young people parameters helps them organize their thoughts as well as their actions. They become better able to manage the consequences that come from those actions. They also become better able to appreciate the rewards of a job well done.
Provide adaptive support.
Successful youth leadership needs the adaptive support of an interdisciplinary team consisting of family, school, and community leaders. Adaptive support meets them where they are and gives them the tools to develop the skills to engage in experiential learning, to explore different leadership styles and service opportunities.
Trying to wring leadership skills from youth who are emotionally, spiritually, or physically drained won’t yield the vital skills necessary to inspire the creativity and follow-through of objectives and goals.
Give youth opportunities for renewal and self-care by providing help that you glean while meeting them where they are. It may be something as simple as a quiet time when life gets overwhelming. It could be a vent session to let off steam or just getting adequate sleep. Teaching youth that they must renew themselves before they can be of service is key to youth empowerment.
Cultivating empathy in young people is key to their development. It teaches them to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to reflect on their own behavior and helps them to act appropriately. You can encourage empathy by talking about how they feel in real-life situations, helping them to understand the point of view of others, and encouraging them to come up with ways to help. In a Perfect World’s signature, youth empowerment programs encourage young people to find their passion, build their confidence, and inspire them to make an impact on the world. Sign up for our Good News Digest to learn more about how you can empower young people to change the world.