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My Experience

I have worked for the past twelve years with young adults from the ages of 11 to 18 from many different cultures and social backgrounds who among other things are either at risk of permanent exclusion from school, have anger management issues, behavioural difficulties, going through parent separation, domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, self- harming, involvement in the youth justice system, drug misuse problems and some with mental health issues.

I am not an expert in the traditional sense of having qualifications like the people who have done the research quoted above nor do I pretend to have all the answers but I have seen first-hand how young people can change for the better or worse and it has been sometimes very rewarding and also very frustrating. The young people I speak to on a daily basis want to be successful and know what is right and wrong, so what is it that makes them do things that are damaging to themselves and those close to them?

I feel that the most influential aspect of a young person’s life is how they interact with their peer groups, how they view their status within those groups, and this becomes more important to them in their early teens, I see this as a major issue when the young person is in year nine around 13-14 years of age. How they are viewed by their peers is vitally important to them, whether they fit in, have the latest gadgets or most expensive trainers, how many friends they have on facebook, the pressures they put themselves under to be part of the gang means they will do and say things that they know deep down are wrong but the cost of doing otherwise is too much to pay, the fear of being an outcast is worth going against what they know their parent/s or teachers would disapprove of. This does not happen to all young people some do have the self-confidence to stand up to these pressures and make sure they associate themselves with friends that do not like them for what they do but who they are. The pressures mentioned above will mean that these young people will often go against their parent/s wishes and it will feel like you do not even know who this person is anymore with all the best guidance and good will in the world the parent/s is seen as the enemy who is trying to stop them having fun and getting the things they want.

The role of being a parent is vital and the most important one you may ever do, there is no shame in admitting that we need help from time to time, because if we get it wrong the price is too high to pay, if we give up on our children who will be there when they want and need support from the people they love. I have seen how patience and perseverance can turn around a young person and we sometimes do not know how important our love and support is appreciated until later on when they thank you for not giving up on them, the greatest pleasure I get from my job with young people is when they visit me and say things like “I am so glad you were there for me”, and they let you know how well they are doing in college or work.

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