Love For Youth – Spending Time With Youth

Love = Time

Sometimes we as youth leaders in our quest to "Save the World's Youth" may think that having fun and hanging out with youth may seem like a waste of time in the light of all the issues our youth have are dealing with: teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, smoking, poor academic performance, and the like. We forget that unless we spend time with youth, we will never get to really deal with the core issues at stake. We may not understand what our youth might be going through at home or in school. Life is tough nowdays. He or she might be experiencing a tense home situation or a stressful time with studies. It is important to remember that fun, despite the connotation, is not trivial – for youth, having fun and sharing it with an adult carry great weight and a meaning. It is more than a recreational outlet, a chance to "blow off steam," or an opportunity to play. Spending time having fun and hanging out is the best and simplest way to express your love and concern for them. And if you do not spend time with your youth, it will not matter how many times you tell them you care, they're not going to believe it – youth spell LOVE as TIME.

Trust Takes Time

They need to feel that they trust you and feel safe around you and building that kind of trust takes time. One youth leader says it best, "To get kids to where they know that you really care and can be trusted, you just have to spend time with them and do things that they like to do." For the analytical among us, studies have shown that youth experience a growing sense of self-worth when an adult not only pays persistent, positive attention to them, but also willingly joins them in activities the youth describe as fun (parents among us, time to take notes). As your youth come to see you as a friend, he or she is likely to be far more receptive to spending some of your time together in activities that are less obviously fun, such as working on school-related assignments or dealing with issues. We encourage you to always, at every opportunity, to weave educational moments into the most "fun" activities. This is the kind of learning that youth tend to enjoy and they often do not even realize that they are learning! Youth learn best when they are not in class. You will remember we said last time that more is caught than taught. For example, working out the amount for a tip together, bowling to teach addition (counting the pins and adding the scores), or talking about issues that come up while watching the news or a movie together.

Things to Do

The particular activities can be almost anything. Here are a few suggestions:

· Play games

· Go to the movies and discuss what you see

· Play catch

· Hang out and talk

· Find interesting information on the Internet

· Watch TV and talk about what you see

· Eat at a restaurant

· Go bowling

· Shoot some hoops

· Go to a baseball or basketball game

· Go to a museum

· Read a book together

· Get ​​involved in a community service project

· Write a story together

· Create artwork together

· Have a picnic

· Fly a kite

· Listen to music every of you enjoys

· Shop for food and cook a meal

· Walk around the mall

· Play chess

· Take photographs together

· Spend time together "doing nothing"

· Do homework (although only occasionally)

· Go to a concert

· Go to the library

· Do gardening together

· Do woodworking together

· Talk about your first job

· Give a tour of your current job

· Take a walk in the park

· Go bargain hunting

· Play miniature golf

· Talk about the future

Voice and Choice

Be sure that your youth play a part in deciding what activities you will do together. Giving them a voice and choice about activities will help to build your friendship. Nothing builds a relationship like showing that your youth's ideas and opinions matter; it shows that you care about and respect them. It's going to also help your youth develop decision-making and negotiating skills. Youth do not ever want to feel like they're forced into doing something (look at how they view most teachers and parents for a clue). When you give them a choice, you come off more as a friend. Also, if you do not give them the choice, look at it this way, they might go along with it for a while but it'll get to a point when it's easier to get a rope through the eye of a needle than getting them to participate.

Although youth want to have freedom of choice, often times, they will agree to anything you suggest simply because (1) they do not want to imposes – they're used to going along with what other adults tell them to do anyway; (2) decision-making is tough – part of decision making is taking responsibility for that decision and most youth do not want to deal with that; or (3) it's not easy to come up with ideas of things to do. (Is not leading youth filled with exciting challenges like that? We love it!)

Here's what you can do: (i) Give them a range of choices; (ii) Brainstorm with your youth a list of activities that they want to do in the future and compile that into a list; (iii) Show them that their enjoyment is important to you – does not hurt to tell them that too; and (iv) Listen and observe – you can pick up much of the conversations with your youth about what they really enjoy doing. This is key.

Key Learning Points:

· Youth spell LOVE as TIME

Give yourself a voice and a choice

· Listen and Observe

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