What advice might 15 year olds give their 5 year old selves?

A month or so ago i was leading a discussion with a small group of young people mostly about their local community, what it had to offer, and how they felt they could make a difference in their local community. But as most of them had grown up there, i wondered what they might say in response the question above:

What advice might you give, if you were just starting primary school this week?’ – ie your 5 year old self? 

I admit, tt was a bit of an out of the blue kind of question. I wondered if they might refer to the local or national worries, or their own concerns about growing up. Take a moment to even think back yourself to when you were 15, what advice might you have given your 5 year old self?

They say being a teenager is difficult because its the first age in which we experience loss for the first time. Ie we grieve the age of being a child. Following on from this we might grieve leaving 20’s or 30’s but weve loved and lost era’s by then. In teenage years we grieve the age of innocence, play, colour and limited responsibility, (for many, not all) – either way at 15, being 5 seems a long time ago.

So- what advice might you give- more to the point – what did this group of 15 year olds say when i asked them? 

This is what they said;

Work hard

Have an opinion

Dont change yourself because of others

Be resilient

Be enthusiastic

Dont stress over little things

Dont be scared to speak out

Dont have to love what everyone else says or does

Dont be afraid to go against the flow

I thought these were very interesting, what about you, what do you think about their response?  what advice might you have given yourself at a similar age?

These 15 year olds sound quite weary. As if life has been tough for them.

In a way, very rarely young people are asked for their advice. So rarely that it can often be a winning question to give young people that kind of opportunity, as they can be barely asked for it. Or if so, it is just as a token. Even today, this week there are many strategy meetings ‘about’ young people in many places across the country from the church, to the local authority that barely have a young person in sight of them. Young people might just be a strategy. But they also might be able to give us the advice we need in order to enable them to flourish in their local community. Because, in reality, if 15 year olds know enough about the world to give themselves this kind of advice – then theres little else we might need to do aside from encourage and nurture that same responsibility.

I wonder whether there is a generation thing – the 15 year olds are growing up as ‘millenials’ or at the lower end of it, I would have been asking the question in 1993, a late blooming generation X, would it have been much different – may be. Do you know what, scrap that. It has nothing to do with generationalisms, it has to do with each young person growing up in their context in their time. Most of the advice they have given would be relevant to any age group. But what these young people identified that that there can be fears in speaking out, in being different, in responding to others opinions. As 15 year old these are important to them. In a way, this is less about what young people said, it is that when given the opportunity, young people can be insightful, wise, show character, leadership and care.  

Might we take a risk in actually asking young people what advice they might give themselves- or what indeed they might give us about the way of the world, their concerns, – the thing is would we listen and act on it – or still think we know whats best….

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