Claire Hailwood is a parent and a former youthworkerand so sees things from both sides
I have a confession to make. As a full-time youthworker, I sometimes found parents and carers frustrating.
For example, when I had to chase adults (again) for payment for a trip, or when young people didn’t have a Bible of their own when their adults were in the church…
Why these examples?
Because as a parent to teenagers, both have been true of me in the last month! I hadn’t confirmed my daughter’s involvement in a trip, and until a Bible was on the kit list for a camp, I hadn’t realised her only physical Bible was the one she had as a child!
I wonder too, if there have been times as a grown up where, if you’re honest, you have found youthworkers a little challenging? Maybe their consistent enthusiasm is a little trying? Or their lack of communication has made you want to pull your hair out?
I’m being deliberately facetious, but these relationships can be stretching at times? Perhaps your experience hasn’t been challenging so far, but you recognise the relationship could be better or more fruitful?
I want to suggest 3 reasons why these relationships may be challenging
1. Lack of relationship
Without the foundation of a strong relationship, our communication can include assumption or second hand information which can easily lead to misunderstanding or frustration.
I’m not suggesting we need a weekly deep and meaningful (although everyone would probably benefit from a coffee together occasionally!) but are there ways to increase relational connection so we get to know one another better?
As a young youthworker I was great at building relationships with young people and I didn’t understand why their adults didn’t have that kind of connection.
That’s pride talking! As I matured, I learned more, but now as a parent to teenagers who don’t always want to talk to me, I have an even greater understanding.
As grown ups we can feel jealous of the connection that youthworkers have with our teenagers or we’d rather they shared with us?
These underlying insecurities can be a barrier to good relationships. What if we prayerfully asked God to reveal these to us which in turn would strengthen all our relationships!
3. Different roles
As youthworkers, we have a privileged role with young people. But we’re not called to parent. We don’t have to do life with them 24/7 (mentally or physically!) in the way that parents and carers do.
As parents and carers, we have the privilege of raising children to launch them into independence. We’re not called to be their friend.
Of course, there are places of overlap which are beautiful and powerful, but when we know and embrace our part, it allows others to play theirs.
How can we do better? Again, here’s 3 places we could start
The Bible is full of instruction to us to honour one another - those above, alongside, those we lead and it’s different to respect which is earned. Honour is freely given. Honour should flow between parents, carers and youthworkers because of the important role each has in the life of a young person.
How could we offer greater honour to the parents, carers, youthworkers (and others) in our life? What difference could that make?
2. Commit to understand, with grace
Let’s build relationship with one another where we resolve to show grace one to the other, and to pursue understanding because then everyone benefits, most importantly the young people we get to be around.
3. Practice gratitude and pray for one another
After meeting our teenager for coffee recently, our youthworker sent a voicenote telling us the things that she saw in our teenager and encouraged us with the great job we were doing as her parents, thanking us for the privilege of being able to take her out for coffee! I won’t be deleting that voicenote in a hurry!
How can we practice and demonstrate our gratitude for and to one another? What difference could it make?
What if we prayed for one another more and shared the encouragement we hear from heaven for one another?