We approach adolescents in a different way, for our benefit and theirs.

It is not that we, the adults, should invite adolescents to the table, and share our plan of the future with them. It is that we should hang out in their space, and hope to be invited to watch them work, think and create. We are no more the guardians of the future, than they are relics of the past. An adolescent is not – in their own view – not quite an adult – hell no. They are a distinct breed, proud of the fact that they have escaped elementary years, and navigating youth with as much flexibility as their situations allow. They see their future, and they don’t see it in the old ways. The young are growing and now developing into sophisticated mature, reproductive, and challenging individuals.

The irritation to the adolescent, is not that they do not know how to rule the world (they believe they do, as countless generations have believed before them), but the adolescents are frustrated to see that there are slow, cumbersome and aged folk already there! Anyone over the age of 25 could neatly be written off. Some think that the adolescents believe they know best (just as the adults do). Fact is neither can do this without the other.

They challenge us to a new perspective.

Gone are the days that we could reach back to the past for advice – what would granddad do? How does grandma do it? That does not cut it in an age of rapidly changing global consciousness, with digitally connected super minds, a single global population facing a single universal dystopia. The youth are born of this world, it is theirs, and they need to be able to work it (and make mistakes, just like every other generation). The generations past have used techniques such as moving on, or moving away, blaming others, seeking superiority or hiding behind ritual and traditions. We have to ask the future! What if… seven generations from now? What if … when the world changes?
The current generations do not have the luxury of basking in historical grandeur. The current world is united, connected, informed, impassioned, and aware.  They know that they must act, and they know that they must act now: they know how; and they know what. WE all know why.

It is in tandem that we get the most done.

Let’s travel together (there is no choice). The adolescent mind needs the predictability, safety and security of the adult mind (though they are loathe to admit it sometimes); the adults need to listen to the beliefs, imagination, passion and compassion of the proto emerging world leaders.

We don’t have time for them to grow up and grow old.

Let’s listen.

Notice, adapt, breathe, continue.

Steven Arnold
TIES Faculty and director of Peace Experiment in Auckland, New Zealand

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