Pay Attention to Our Pain, Youth Say
SUNRIVER, October 2019: Nineteen-year-old Kabuki Akira was kicked, punched and even stabbed by bullies in his middle and high schools. He felt ignored by teachers and when his mother intervened, the bullying only got worse. It would have helped if teachers or other adults would have paid attention to his sadness, his isolating behaviors and the ways students interacted with him in the classroom and hallways.
"We're talking about taking a little bit of time just to be a human being to somebody else," Kubuki advised during I Am M.O.R.E.'s youth-facilitated "Nothing About Me Without Me" workshop at the 3rd Annual Trauma-Informed Oregon conference. "It's extraordinarily important, especially when addressing real life situations that are hard to talk about."
As part of the interactive training before a standing-room-only audience of more than 50 people, I Am M.O.R.E. youth engaged in a honest fishbowl conversation in response to this question: How has trauma showed up in your life and what do you wish adults would have done to interact in a way that was more empowering? Some of the advice included:
Not all youth have an adult at school or at home who cares about their feelings, so they don't always trust love when it shows up. Be patient and consistent.
Not all young people are going to open up, even when asked to share their pain.
Sometimes, just sit with a young person, even if you don't talk.
Take time to build a trusting relationship. Share more and ask questions later.
Let youth build confidence that they can trust you before asking them to open up.
Faiza Jama, age 20, said she hated having to spend time talking to therapists at school who would write down what she said but offer no solutions or advice. This one-sided interaction made her feel judged. She suggested that more teachers, mental health counselors, social workers and therapists share with young people more of their own experiences with overcoming trauma "so it's not a one-sided story," Faiza advised. "Maybe I could learn from your personal story and how you came over trauma and tribulations."
Lastly, young people do recognize when adults aren't being as patient as they should be.
"You should not be in a job where you are irritated by children," noted 18-year-old Daniel Lasuncet. "Like if you look at them and they hurt your soul, don't do that for a living. For real!"