Helping teenagers stick up for themselves

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Helping teenagers stick up for themselves

Teenagers are often treated with suspicion when they are hanging out or just doing everyday activities such as going to the shops. It’s great if teenagers feel like you are on their side and ready to stick up for them. It’s also good if they have the confidence and skills to stick up for themselves. These are important things to take into many different situations such as socialising, meeting new people and going to new places.

When you stick up for teenagers and show that you are on their side, you are modelling behaviours they can also use themselves. They can learn how to be both assertive and respectful. The following tips to help teenagers may also be really useful for adults. 

Five ways to help teenagers stick up for themselves

Model behaviour that helps teenagers to stick up for themselves:

  • Listen to different points of view.
  • Be polite.
  • Defend an honest error when someone has made a mistake.
  • Be prepared to apologise.
  • Be willing to step back from situations.
  • Be prepared to accept that you can have different points of view and still like or respect each other.

Help them to stand up for an issue or a cause they care about:

  • Encourage them to look up background information or facts.
  • Point them to organisations that support teenagers.
  • Encourage them to explore human rights.
  • Remind them about fact-checking and being wary of false information.
  • Encourage them to learn from other campaigns that have worked well. These could be local or famous international ones.

Practice simple ways to keep discussions on a positive note:

  • Keep your voice at its usual level, or even a bit quieter than normal, if the other person is shouting.
  • Make your first word ‘Hello’ even if the other person has started to rant.
  • Smile and be friendly.
  • Try saying ‘Would you be willing to…?’ if you would like to make a suggestion. For example, ‘Would you be willing to have a look at this idea?’

Get to know the community:

  • Encourage teenagers to find out about the roles of people in the community, for example, councillors, community wardens, police.
  • Suggest they find out about the ways they can have a voice in the community such as attending meetings, responding to surveys and consultations or standing for elections if they are old enough.
  • Contribute to the community, for example by volunteering at one-off events such as litter picks or more regular activities.

Encourage them to look after themselves so they feel confident and resilient enough to stick up for themselves and others:

  • Find opportunities to share and chat about values – what are the things that matter to you and them?
  • Remind them of the things that keep them well – whether that is going for a walk, eating balanced meals or getting enough sleep.
  • Encourage them to think through what they can do to assess situations and avoid getting themselves into trouble.
  • Remember having fun and a good laugh, socialising and hanging out is good for you.

There are suggestions to help you stick up for teenagers on these pages: