Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Post: (From my mother) God sets the lonely in famlies

As I have been reflecting on family over this month I couldn't help but think of my own upbringing.  I know first hand that my parents had difficult teens to raise because I was one of them. I wont launch into all the details but some of the highlights are:

  • Calling my parents and telling them I was critically wounded in an accident
  • Getting hurt in a car surfing accident
  • Getting myself kicked out of the house due to my attitude and language use (putting it nicely)
But.... Enough about me.  As I contemplated this I could think of no one better to ask to write an article on family for this blog than my own personal hero - my mom.

God sets the lonely in families…

How can I explain family? Just reflecting on the idea makes my heart rejoice in this gift from God: The people I call family.  As each of the faces of these loved ones flash across my mind I think about how important each one of them is; how I love them each uniquely and as a collective.  Thoughts and feelings come easy to me, but sometimes it is hard to explain something that you just are.  I’ve spent a lot of time writing and rewriting my thoughts and still I feel that what I have written is inadequate to describe the depth of my understanding and passion in this matter.

Family begins with two.  The relationship that husband and wife share will impact the future expansions of family directly.  The things we do without thinking are a powerful living example to our children. As such we need to make every effort to show love and respect to each other as parents.  This creates a foundation of strength and a place to build on as the children grow.  As children are added to the relationship the love and respect should overflow from what is already there.  Of course there will be a lot of unexpected situations that will threaten the security of what we set up.  In these times I maintain that it is vital that we dedicate ourselves to prayer and constant discipline.  It takes a great deal of discipline for ourselves to be able to lovingly and respectfully discipline our children.  Discipline in what creates the boundaries that will keep our families as a safe stable place with honest communication.  In family there is a great need for self sacrifice.  You may not feel like spending time together, praying together, reading, working or learning together.  But unless we seek to be together how can we rejoice in each other’s victories or comfort each other in the trying times?  To be a family each must know that they are loved and cherished no matter how often they goof up.  

Building on such a foundation will help families survive the teen years.  Many times teens are very lonely as they seek to find their individual place and they need strong guidelines to keep them from making costly errors.  There is a delicate balance in this that I liken to holding tightly to a loosened rope.  We loosen it more as trust and responsibility are learned but holding tightly when boundaries are broken.   Discipline to maintain the family as a safe place is threatened when we give in to the “everyone is doing it” or the “I hate you” statements.  Our hearts are broken for our children and the temptation will be took seek friendship with our teens instead of remembering that our role is to be their parents.  They need you be strong as they have yet to learn to be strong on their own.  One of the hardest things is making sure you allow them to suffer the full consequences of their actions. We seek to protect and prevent harm, but we learned from our bad choices and they need to have the ability to do the same.    On the opposite end of the spectrum we need to resist the temptation to cut off the communication by declaring that “this is the way it is”.  This is rigidity not stability.  Remember to listen carefully; seek to understand what they are saying as opposed to assuming that you already know.  Be available and invest in wherever their interests lie.  Again I will say that family rests on the strong and consistent lives of the parents.

I like to remember that the words of David in Psalm 68:6a which say, “God sets the lonely in families.”  This includes my own children for sure and also a great many others who are desperately lonely who have come across our path over the years.  The faces I see flash past my eyes at the thought are not all related by blood, but I consider them family nonetheless.  I’m blessed that my family is a place God can set lonely people in. I look back on how many times I have failed and I am thankful for God’s love and forgiveness.  I am also thankful for the love and forgiveness of my children.  I praise God how they turned out in spite of me.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Post: 8 Reasons Youth Workers Should Watch "Modern Family"

I want to introduce to you my friend and co-worker Derian Julihn.  After years of working together as Youth Workers Derian and I often reach the same conclusions on things.  And yet, we have completely different personality type and we are constantly learning from one another.  Since I don't have TV service Derian will often keep me up to date on the latest media.  This is true of the show modern family.  He proclaimed that every youth worker should watch the show.  I asked him why and this is his answer.  

On a side note, Derian keeps a blog as well and I would encourage you to check it out here.

8 Reasons Youthworkers Should Watch Modern Family

I am about to make a blanket statement… If you are a youthworker or youth pastor and are not watching ABC’s Modern Family you probably should clear your schedule for Wednesday nights at 8 pm. If that’s not an option you need to set your pvr or watch it online. 

Here’s a link if you wanna watch the pilot episode

What It’s All About:

“When the Pritchett-Delgado-Dunphy family agrees to be interviewed by a documentary crew, they have no idea just how much they're about to reveal about themselves. Family patriarch Jay Pritchett met the stunning Columbian Gloria Delgado when she bartended in a bikini at the pool party he threw for himself the day his wife left him. Now Jay and Gloria are married and Jay tries hard to keep up with his much younger and hotter wife and her passionate teenage son, Manny. Jay's daughter, Claire, is having a hard time raising her own family. Her husband Phil is great, except for the fact that he thinks he's "down" with their teenage kids, much to their embarrassment. Claire's brother Mitchell and his enthusiastic partner Cameron have just adopted Lily, a precious little baby girl from Vietnam. But when everyone gets together, things are bound to get awkward… But that's the thing about family: no matter how badly you behave, hopefully they'll forgive... or maybe even forget. In the tradition of The Office, this engaging new comedy offers a 'mockumentary' view into the complicated, messy, loving life of a modern day super-extended family.”

So why do I think you should watch this show?

  1. Laughter: This show absolutely hilarious. If for no other reason than a good hearty laugh you will find yourself rewarded for watching an episode of Modern Family.

  1. Family Friendly: It can be hard to find shows on tv that aren’t violent, crude or sexual. While not necessarily traditional it is actually quite family friendly.

  1. Popular Culture: Your youth are watching it and so should you even if it’s just as a popular culture lesson. It’s so popular, in fact, that in it’s first season it was nominated for 14 Emmys—winning 3 of them (best comedy, best supporting actor, and writing.)

  1. A New Traditional Family: Your youth can relate because their families and/or their friend’s families look a lot more like the “Modern Family” than the “Traditional Family.” In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that many of your youth are growing up in a family even less traditional than the “Modern Family.”

  1. Our Family Mandate: Closely related to the last point is this: most youthworkers and youth pastors know that their job is as much working with a youths family (parents and siblings) as the youth themselves.

  1. Lessons in Conflict: Every episode is a great lesson in conflict and conflict resolution. It’s amazing and hilarious to watch how an expectation, an assumption, a lie, or a miscommunication leads to such conflict (not all together unlike real life.)

  1. Learning to Love: You might see love in places you’ve never really understood before. Despite all the conflict and neurotic mess of this non-traditional family you’ll see how much they love each other. They might not understand each other or their choices but they are willing to fight for each other. Perhaps you too will begin to fall in love with them—foibles and all. Perhaps it might take you to a place of tolerance (I can disagree with you and love you without having to change you) you’ve never been before.

That’s my pitch. I hope you enjoy Modern Family as much as I have. If you do find it worth your while may I also recommend you stick around and check out The Middle which follows Modern Family. Perhaps I’ll write a follow-up blog on why youthworkers should watch it but that’s for another day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reality makes me cry

I looked across the table and looked into the eyes of the young person as they recounted a story of unbelievable hurt and pain.  The words spoken are too painful and too powerful to recount in a medium such as this.  These are things that should never have happened. 

As the words came through my ears,
my eyes could see the youth that was robbed of this young person and how they were shriveling into an old soul.
My mind was racing for things to say,
my body clenched in wanting need of action,
my heart screamed the loudest as it said "IINJUSTICE".
my hands formed fists in anger
my tears came.  I could not stop them.  I could not separate myself from the pain of this.  Empathy was not enough and yet, what more could I offer. 

The kicker of it was that the young person looked at me, the tears running down my face and said,

"I'm sorry for making you cry."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When birthdays aren't so great

Birthdays are important to people and so as a youth worker I try to be extra conscious to give an appropriate acknowledgment of someones special day.  There are times when that is just a high five, there are other times when the young peoples family have indicated that they don't care enough to throw a party, give gifts, or even be around for their kids.  Those days are filled with sadness for a lot of the teens that I work with.  For instance today there is a young teen out there that shares the same birthday as me and she is living in a new city without her family.  That's hard

Today is my birthday and I have a hard time celebrating when there are so many where their birthdays are, to them, not worth celebrating.  Of course I'm glad their alive and I'm glad to sacrifice my special day to make their day somewhat better.  If you want to make a difference along with me.  Make my birthday an excuse to make a donation toward my work with young people.  I need to raise an additional $29,000 in order to break even this year.  Think of it as a gift to keep someone around these youth that cares enough to acknowledge that the world wouldn't be the same without them around.  Plus it is a tax free birthday gift, how often does that happen?

To donate click here

Monday, September 20, 2010

Teen writes: Dear Mom and Dad

Sometimes it comes as a complete shock to parents that their teens are dealing with complex issues.  The perception is that there is good communication, but the kids feel like they can't say what is really on their mind.  For this reason I ask youth to write anonymous letters to parents with things that they would like to say.  So it could be that your child wants to write a similar letter to this one.  How would you respond? 

Dear Mom and Dad,
Did you know it has been four months since the razor has made it's last impression on my wrist? Four months since I watched the blood trickle down my arm for the last time? Did you know I made a promise never to do it again? So far I've kept that promise to myself, but trust me, there are still nights I want to break it. Any rainy and sad day; anything I don't believe I can handle—-and my blood, sweat and tears want to flow. Did you even know this was going on? I started to cut myself in
the middle of last year. It was an absolutely brutal time. Where were you? Do you even know why I would start? Take a glimpse at my life.

Did you know I had no friends? Did you know I have no support here at home? Did you realize I had nothing? You and I constantly fought, and then you hit me with the possibility of moving away and that hung over me. Then there were the guys. One I trusted let me down in the worst possible way and the jerk I was dating hurt me more than loved me. I could go on and on. Did you know that many of these things are still with me today?

I’ve found a better way to cope. I wouldn’t say I’m TONS happier, but I am a bit. My heart is still bruised, and I’m still broken and bleeding. People I trust still find the need to kick me when I’m down, but whenever I’m upset I just remember that each day I go without adding another scar to my body, is a day closer to conquering this addiction. It hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. It’s been harder, but before I hit rock bottom, I never realized how deep in it I actually was.

Just thought you should know
Your daughter

Friday, September 17, 2010

Youth and Parent Adventure Retreat

I want to tell you about an amazing resource for helping young people re-connect with their families.  Maybe your family life isn't in the dire straits as some of the stories I've shared on previous blog entries, but you don't have to reside in complete dysfunction to need help connecting with the people living in your home. 

There are a lot of topics that come up in like that are perfectly natural to talk about and should be talked about, however when it comes time for parents and children to interact about such things it seems awkward and forced.  I don't know what that is for you, but it could be discussions on sex, drug abuse, relationships, conflicts and the many other issues your your people could be facing 

The program is called Youth and Parents Adventure Retreats ( One of the greatest things about this is that you can design the type of adventure you want to go on together (hikes, boating, rock climbing, you name it) and the team will help construct the weekend for you.  Also you can interact with the youth workers about what topic you are hoping to address and they will help you with resources if you need them, or simply just show you a quiet place you can talk.  In my opinion it is definitely worth checking out.

Make sure to watch the promo video for adventure retreats now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jesus was from a messed up family

The ancient Hebrews were borderline obsessed with tracking family historic data. These end up as long dry lists of names in our bibles that most of us skip over, however these lists can help us realize that the image we have a plastic Jesus that can't relate to our messed up family life can be put into a more realistic light.

People like to talk about being in the line of the kings.  It was technically true just as I can say that I am a descendant of Scottish noble. First, when people looked at Jesus running around they just saw him as the illegitimate child of Joseph and Mary's, who in social standings ranked somewhere around dirt.  Then going back we will see a long list of less than admirable characters.  (I'll be blitzing through Matthew 1 here)

Abraham - liked to tell people his wife was his sister.
Isaac - loved his oldest boy the best
Jacob - cheated his father-in-law to make a fortune
Tamar - who pretended to be a prostitute to have a baby with her father-in-law without his knowledge
Ruth - a foreigner born woman who seduced a man into proposing to her while he was drunk
Jesse - who didn't consider his youngest boy to be worth presenting with the rest of his children
David - slept with the wife of one his most loyal followers then had him killed to hide his guilt
Solomon - who had a sex addiction (hundreds of wives plus a harem of like a thousand)

On and on it goes into the accounts of the kings who did some good, but mostly bad.  A sultry list of characters to be certain.  The point is that even Jesus' own half brothers thought he was baked.  His step father isn't recorded as being around after he was 12 so it's likely that he died when Jesus was still young.  The people from his small town even tried to literally push him off a cliff.  The friends that he did make abandoned him in his darkest hour and even denied that they knew him.  Plus his dying words were calling out to God asking why he had forsaken him.  If anyone knew what it was like to feel alone without the bonds of family, it was Jesus.

If he can really forgive people for abandoning him and he indeed is God.  Maybe he isn't so plastic after all.  Even if you are angry at the church I urge you to consider Jesus.  he could end up being the family you are missing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caution: Unicorn Crossing Ahead (Family Vs Friends)

So all this talk about the family falling apart has been pretty dismal, I know. That is why I am posting this article written by a young friend of my named Josh, who always does his best to mix deep philosophy with off the wall humor. It is worth a read, enjoy.
     My family is one of the lucky ones. I have both parents, a stable home, and have never truly known death in my life. We are like the Brady Bunch without all the weird serial killer behavior and bell bottom pants. So now that we have that out of the way and you all thoroughly hate my guts, let’s begin. I thought rather than tell you about my family, I’d talk about families in general. I promise not to include any more rainbows and sunshine if you keep reading… okay, well maybe a little unicorn frolicking in a meadow if I have the time.
     You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you? Here goes…
     The physical needs of the human race are well know to anyone who has the ability to form a coherent thought (also, apparently Dane Cook knows them too, much to the chagrin of people with senses of humor). That is to say, what our body needs in order to survive is an intake of water, food, oxygen, and some form of shelter from the outside world. But the human condition is maintained by more than just sitting in your house eating Funyuns and drinking a 2 liter bottle of 7-up while playing old N64 games on your flat screen.
     There is another type of need, which we must address in order to stay emotionally happy:
companionship. It is the people who provide for this need, even when we don’t reciprocate,
who are our families.
     Now a stereotypical thing to do here would be to quote from a reliable source the true
meaning of the word family and, from that, tease out an essay worthy of that ‘C+’ from the English teacher who really doesn’t like you (I know, I know, She’s got it in for you). The problem is, I don’t aim that high. Instead, I present you with this half ***** attempt from Wikipedia:

“Family… is an group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence.” (sic). All that those fancy words mean is that family is either the people you live with, have a friendship with, or share the same blood with (insert vampire joke here).

     The point is family is what you make of it. So, why is it then that so many people put-up with so much crap just to keep the shambles from falling any further? Some say love is blind, I say it’s retarded (in the fun loving ‘unicorn frolicking in a meadow’ sort of way). I feel that sometimes the best option is a new start. All the remedies in the world can’t heal you if you are still drinking poison.
     Contrary to what you may have gleaned from my long winded stream-of-consciousness style writing, I in no way support you getting an emancipation at 13 years old because your parents grounded you for a week when you stole their car and wrecked it after an all night binge at your local pub. My intention was to focus you more on the company you keep: your friends in other words.
     Many people I know have that one friend who they used to consider family. Now they are a little older, a little wiser, and realize that their once lovable tiger cub of a friend has grown up, and is eating the villagers. For some reason beyond everyone else’s comprehension, they keep this friend in their inner circle. They’ll scold the friend every now and again, possibly even have a fight, but eventually they reconcile; and, pretty soon another person goes missing (a metaphorical person usually, unless your friend really is a tiger or other large predator).

     I’ve been in that situation before and I did the only thing I could think to do.
     I kept them as a friend, but distanced myself.
     I monitored my words and actions around them.
               I erected impassable barriers protected by grey wizards.
     In short, I did everything I could without cutting them off completely. They could no longer get at my inner workings and mess around. This may seem a sad story but it was required in order for everyone involved to grow. The greatest thing about your closest friends is they can be whoever you’d like them to be. It’s a privilege to be on the inside loop and that’s something we sometimes lose sight of. That love you feel for that person may still be there, but that doesn’t mean they deserve your friendship.
     Well, if you made it this far in: Congratulations. You survived. There’s no t-shirt, but you can be proud of yourself. Brag to people about it if you want. I hope I provided a break from the norm and cut up some of these saddest stories ever told by anyone who hasn’t been to Africa. I feel depressed just thinking about them. Go get a latté. It’ll make you feel better.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Post: My Fairy Godmother

As a youth worker it is sometimes hard to see the big picture.  We think that we have things figured out, that we have some sort of x-ray vision into the lives of the young people that we are connected to.  There may be times we are tempted, after hearing tales of difficulties, to tell young people that we know "exactly" how they feel.  When their lives fall apart were may be tempted to say "I told you so".  We need to remember that we don't always have a full picture of what is going on or what is going to happen.  
Today one of my friends, Danielle Christopher, gives us a glimpse in the world of what it is like to face a world of uncertainty.  Danielle, who is now a young mom you may pass in the isle at walmart once was a young person facing a world of hurt.  Her story is inspiring to me as I can hope that the young troubled students will turn out to be so "normal."  Her story also reminds me that I can never have the whole picture in my head and that there are many times I should just shut my mouth and just listen more.

“Mommy, read it again, please.” My toddler pushes the fairytale book open again. Her eyes stare at me with a puzzled look. I wipe my eyes quickly nodding and take hold of the Cinderella book for the second time.
I tell the story and get to the point where Cinderella is crying in the garden and her fairy godmother appears. I feel the tears bubble in my throat again.
It has been a month since I said good-bye to my fairy godmother. Ever since I can remember I thought that the fairy godmother in this tale was based on my own godmother, Judy. They both looked the same and taught unconditional love.
When my mom died, Judy was my go-to person to talk about anything or to just listen.
As my dad’s anger grew grieving for my mom, he focused on me as a target of his abuse. Judy faded away when she moved towns away.  My dad’s abuse isolated me.  I was afraid to tell anyone what was happening at home.
From the time I was eleven until I was almost sixteen, I lived in the pain believing that I deserved it.
After one extreme blow-up with my dad and stepmother, they took me to a counselor. They were concerned that I was depressed, my grades dropped and I had no friends.
After two months of weekly counseling, I turned sixteen. It was an un-happy birthday. There was an extreme fight. My stepmom took off. Dad slammed the door to his room after telling me my birthday party was cancelled (a half an hour before it was due to start.) I didn’t cancel it and fake-smiled my way through the room of family and the few neighborhood friends that came.
The next day I had my regular appointment with the counselor. After he asked me how life was going, I bawled my eyes as I poured out my heart. After I cleaned my face, he looked at me and informed me that since I was sixteen, legally I did not have to live at home as long as I had a safe place to go.
After dinner I got a call from my godmother, Judy, wishing me a happy belated birthday. I felt like Cinderella in that garden and told her everything. Judy told me that I could come live with her for two weeks.  After she had a long talk with my dad, I left the next day.
After the two weeks, I entered the foster care system because she could not afford to keep caring for me. There was no way I was going back to my dad’s house. Due to the process, I had to temporarily live in group homes and smaller foster homes. Judy became my foster mother to help receive money to raise me.
When I left her house to get married, we kept in touch. Our ‘adopted’ family kept the Sunday night dinner tradition for several years, rotating hosting duties.
The day our daughter was born, a fairy godmother became a fairy grandmother.
When Judy was disabled with a bad hip, the relationship between her and my daughter deepened. I got pregnant a second time and was unable to help Judy as much as I wanted to do.
Judy died suddenly when my daughters were 2 ½ years old and 5 months. All the pain of losing my mom, my grandmothers and now her, came back tenfold. My daughters lost the grandma they knew.  I lost the mother I knew all my life.
I break out of the memories to my daughter staring at me again waiting for the end of the story.
Hugging and kissing her tight, I am thankful I had one parent figure for as long as I did who loved me no matter what. Because of that gift, it is how I parent and love my miracle daughters every day.
Do you have a special person? If not-all you have to do is ask. They are there.

I appreciate Danielle sharing her story and her writing with us here on (Pro)  Danielle writes for many websites and is a published author.  I recommend reading her blog here at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Youth writes: "Dear Mom and Dad..."

This letter is real. It was written by a teen in Langley. She could live next door—or she could live in your home. She is just one, but she speaks the words of so many. While we will keep her identity anonymous we still wish to thank her for her contribution. We ask you, what would your response be to a letter like this?

Dear Mom and Dad,
"Life doesn't always go as planned, and there's 'grown up' things that I won't understand." This is what you tell me when you just don't feel like explaining. But when I'm the one explaining I don't have a choice. You've been there before though right? You've been through everything,. Every single thing that I've been through? When you were my age the problems were as different as the fashions and I guess that's hard to grasp. Every once in a while I need a little space too. A
place to call my own that you won't rifle through. A place where I feel safe to be myself, a place where it's okay to just let go. I love you both with all my heart and I know that you love me too but sometimes protecting someone goes a step too far: at times it's suffocating. I know you think it's what's best for me but I need to make my own mistakes to learn the way to be, sometimes I don't want to listen to your advice on your mistakes. I want them to belong to me. Sometimes the things that happen in life are beyond us; sometimes they're things we can't control. Some- Sometimes your life is hard too. You always let times me know when things are falling apart,
but sometimes I can't fix them for you. Sometimes I can't handle your problems and mine, sometimes I just want to be a kid.

Things happen in my life that I'd love to tell you, but can't because it might scare you or make you angry. I want to talk to you, but there's this wall. My friends and I have been through things you'd never imagine, and will never know about because of our wall. I wish we could break
cause through. I guess all I really mean is that sometimes I need to have the room to grow.
I'm still you're little girl, just not the one you used to know.
Love Me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why would youth define family as nonexistent?

In recent history there have been great debates turning into political wars over the need to protect the family. Some are so worried over the government allowing a redefinition of family that they fail to realize that the family has already mutated from the generalized view of the fifties family (Or even the 90's family for that matter).

Media is a good reflection of culture and while the dysfunctional family life of The Simpson's once seemed to be shocking now almost seems almost like an unrealistic depiction of family. Many teens would see the Simpson family as not being dysfunctional enough.

Today's family is better depicted in the show "Modern Family". Ill be posting a review of that show later on in the month so keep your eyes open for that.

The truth is that today's youth have already redefined family as my young friend Morgan wrote about in my last post: ( Of course many would argue that all adolescents tend to go through a period of centering their life in their peers as opposed to their families, and I would agree. However the trend that I've been noticing goes much deeper than friendship. The question to ask is why.

Perhaps it is because frequently home is a place of uncertainty and instability. There are depressing statistics about young people that have been physically or sexually abused by family members. For others their house is only a place they reside. And many as their parents are not together are split between at least two houses. This is so common I don't assume that young people have parents but instead I will simply ask who lives in their house with them. There are some students that show more life maturity than their own parents. I might go so far to say that the teens often parent their parents.

Because of the lack of security young people get emotionally dependent on their friends, however as normal teen drama enters into the relationships they don't have a home to return to for acceptance and strength. I also have found graduates weeping and broken in the hallways feeling that leaving highschool is the splitting of their family.
So we see that friends may help compensate for a shaky family life they cannot replace it. Time and time again I have listened to young people explain why they aren't friends with whom they were best friends the previous day. They usually say something about having trust issues.

So young people are told about finding a spiritual family. However for those that are used to being abandoned wounded and not accepted see the faults of our churches much better than we do. The arguing, the unwillingness to change and the judgmental attitudes are way more apparent than the grace, hope and love that we day were about.

Another common issue is the segregation of age groups so that youth have little to no contact with the rest of the congregation. The thing about family is it is not segregated. So why is the church? Of course the youth learn to relate their lives to a youth pastor. The average life span of a youth worker in a church is a year in my city. If these youth workers don't leave the student are told that they must transition out of the group that has given them the security and into a "Comunity" where they have no sense of belonging. Again losing their sense of family.

So rather than worry about defining family as Christians why don't we start by just being family for those that have none.

Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To this teen, family is...

Thanks to my guest blogger Morgan.  She is an amazing writer and has a lot of insight into the world around her.  I hope you enjoy her post.

Family is a funny thing to try and describe in words considering the unique variety that exist in society today. The dictionary defines a family as, “a social unit living together,” or “a group where the adults protect the offspring.” To me the dictionary is missing a lot of the dynamics of a family.
The fifties gave us the picture perfect family, a mother, father and the two little children playing in the picket fenced yard. I don’t know a single family with a picket fence nowadays though so where does that leave us?
The unfortunate reality of the 21st century is that the divorce rate is nearly higher than the success rate of marriage. Broken homes and families are everywhere, but do you need a successful marriage to have a successful family? Do you even need a marriage to have a family?
The traditional family has the married parents and their children, but my family consists of my two best friends, my dad, my step-mum, my nana, my sister, my step-brother and a friend’s parent. An unlikely mix up of the most influential people in my life have become the support system I lean on when things are impossible to handle and they are also the people who celebrate the triumphs and joys of life with me. I look at my family and see hope. I don’t see a broken jumble of misfits, I see everything I will ever need.
A family doesn’t have to live together. A family doesn’t have to share blood. Your family is the group of people you trust with your soul, the people who never leave you alone and the people who make the sunrise beautiful and all those other corny simplicities worth while. A family is whoever you hold in your heart, alive, dead, near, far, related or not. A family is love, simple and pure.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some youth are invisible orphans.

I would love it if you could sit with me and listen young people tell me about their family lives.  There are things that are so disheartening about their homes.  Unfortunately if I brought hundreds of people with me to my meetings with them, they may feel a little intimated.  The second best option would be to write out the stories as I hear them, but we can't write about people's personal family difficulties without permission from ALL family members and that would be unprofessional and unethical.

So here is where this video came in - where I "interview" a fictional young person that shares his story with you.  I did make up this kid's story, but I didn't exaggerate the types of things that I hear.  I'd love to hear your comments on how you might react to a kid like Keith.

Thanks for watching.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Does advice given to youth fall on deaf ears?

I was reading an article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal Blogs about the "advice gap."  In this short blog post writer Jeffery Zaslow points out some example from his own life about the trend in intergenerational communication.  This was run in parallel to his full article on the issue of wisdom of elders falling on deaf ears. Finding the article interesting I posted the link on my twitter and facebook account with the question, "Should teens listen to their elders?"  I had some interesting discussion being reflected back to me and one of my friends ask me what my opinion on the matter was.  As I was laying in bed last night in a failed attempt to sleep I was thinking over this topic and realized there was no way a comment field on my facebook would do for my response.  

As a youthworker a lot of my life is spent in the realm of noticing differences.  After all the kids I work with never heard of my favorite TV shows or music from when I was a kid.  Their expectation of instant communication means that they get mad if you don't respond to their text message within 14.2 seconds of receiving it.  I remember in my day that you if you wanted to talk to someone that you had to call their house and wait for them to get home.  Answering machines were just coming out and not everyone had one.  In many ways I have tailored my life to approach young people on their level, but that doesn't mean that it's the right way of doing things.

For instance, Zaslow, lists an example of trying to help his daughter make better use of punctuation and grammar in her letter to a businessman.  In this he told his daughter to think she only had one explanation point she could use in her life and to use it well.  When the 30 something business man responded using explanation points   in 3/4 of his sentences that his daughter knew she had taken the wrong advice.  However, just because a bad habit is common, doesn't it make it the right way of doing things.  For instance, I have counseled a few young people this summer to refrain from having heated arguments over text message and to meet in person. And yet the idea is a foreign concept to them.  Their friendships would have ended if I hadn't played the part of the mediator.

That being said there are things that an older generation doesn't have a whole lot of input on, technology, social media, texting are all things that young people really are more knowledgeable.  Young people get used to advising their elders on how to keep up with the technological edge, or just get annoyed at them as many people do of slow drivers on the freeway.It is a youth oriented society after all.   At the same time another article I read yesterday, and I can't find the link of right now, mentioned that the older generation enjoy reading stories of youth failures precisely because they feel undervalued and feel that young people are over valued.

Seeing the undervalued of the older many middle age people try their best to maintain their "edge". To be cool and to refuse to be adults, but rather just older peers. (Many people could describe me as a youth worker that way, I know).  As such they don't like the titles of Mr. Smith or Mrs. Brown and want to be know as Brent or Amy.  Many times youth do not take such people seriously on advice and they don't know why.
My conclusion is that the culture is disconnected and shattered.  For too long youth and elders have been separated that they don;t know how to communicate to each other or what to talk about if they do talk.  Should teens listen to their elders?  Well it seems to me that the first step it to get teens and older people alike to respect each other.  We need to be reconnected at a human level.  The older can help the world run more smoothly as many of their lives hard knocks can make a young person's life run more smooth and the young can respectfully guide the older in the way the world has been rewired.