YOUNG MINDS: Understanding your teen’s true thoughts

Youths to share voices to parents at local high schools

Peace Arch News publishes a monthly column for the White Rock-South Surrey Division of Family Practice addressing issues surrounding youth mental health. In this article, George Passmore addresses the disconnect between parents and their youth.

As a parent of teenagers, do you ever wish you could know what is going on inside their minds? Do you ever have an impulse to eavesdrop on their conversations with friends to try to hear how they really feel about what is happening in their lives?

We parents can often feel confused and in the dark when it comes to understanding what influences their moods and behaviours.

No matter how open we are as their parents, our children can find it hard to give us the real goods due to the inescapable fact that we have an agenda for their lives.

Many interactions get mired in our well-intentioned attempts to influence their thoughts and behaviour.

This can leave us hungry for insight and connection. We want to know how best to support them and help them navigate this formative chapter of their lives.

Of course, we can read books or attend workshops. Or we can hear from experts who have studied the teenage brain.

But what if we could actually have a window into what it is like to be a young person in 2017 from young people themselves?

Such a unique opportunity is coming to each of the three South Surrey secondary schools in late May. Three special evening events, called “Tuned in Parents: Youth Sharing Their Voices,” will be a chance for adults to hear teenagers discuss what they have to navigate every day.

It is a chance to hear about what undermines and what supports our teenagers in the challenges they face.

In circles, youth will speak and adults listen and learn from what is shared. Topics will include the stresses and pressures of adolescent life, what young people do to cope, their experiences of social media and substance use, what parents already do that helps and what they wish parents would and would not do.

Parents will have the opportunity ahead of time to submit questions and topics on which they’d like to hear from a youth perspective, especially if it is something you wish your teen could open up about.

A youth engagement facilitator will ask the questions and guide the youth discussion for the adults to listen.

Studies show that by creating a youth-friendly environment, youth are more willing to talk openly about their lives and the issues they consider to be important. As well, parents are freed from the pressure of feeling they should respond to what they are hearing. They will then be more able to reflect on what their children might be experiencing and on ways they could deepen and strengthen their connection.

Many parents say that they are more tuned in with their teenage children as a result of greater emphasis on listening.

Tuned-in Parents: Youth Offering Their Voices will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on May 24 at Semiahmoo Secondary, May 30 at Earl Marriott Secondary and May 31 (sold-out) at Elgin Park Secondary. Dinner will be provided (one less thing to worry about).

For details and to register, go to and look for “Tuned In Parents: Youth Offering Their Voices.”

Please register only for the event happening at the school your child currently attends or will be attending. Space is limited.

If you cannot attend this event, similar evenings will likely repeat in the fall.

These events are sponsored by the White Rock-South Surrey Local Action Team of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative.

George Passmore is manager of counselling and substance-use services at Sources Community Resources and a member of the White Rock-South Surrey Local Action Team, one of 64 working as part of a provincial Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative funded by Doctors of BC and the B.C. government.

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