Dr Louise Randall, GRIT Founder
It’s International Adolescent Health Week - a week designed to inspire communities and young people to invest in resources to support the successful transition of adolescents from a child to an adult.
Adolescence is a notoriously turbulent time. The second decade of life, it is a period of time accompanied by significant physical, social and psychological changes. Yet instead of supporting young people, society has a tendency towards a negative attitude to the youth of today. We ask them to be more in touch with their emotions, and then we call them snowflakes for doing so. We ask them to see everyone as equal and fight against inequality, and when they do we call them woke. We tell them if they don’t work hard for exams and succeed then their chances of future success will be reduced. When they do work hard and do well we say it’s because exams are too easy these days. We ask a fifteen year old what they want to do with the rest of their lives at a time when they are finding out who they are. I, as an adult, have given up trying to work out where I’ll be in five years from now, as I know all too well life has a funny habit of throwing the unexpected your way, and it’s embracing these opportunities that need to be encouraged.
The truth is that adolescents of today are not a problem to be solved. Instead they are an opportunity to invest in. WHO calls adolescence the second decade and second chance. This is a time of rapid brain development with the brain effectively choosing its foundations for adult life. What happens in adolescence has a huge impact on adult life and the way we see and respond to the world around us. Adolescents are the parents of future generations, so it not only affects them as adults, but also has an impact on their children.
We are all too aware of how challenging adolescence can be, but it can also be a time of great excitement and wonder as a young person starts exploring the world independently for the first time and sees things from a different lens. Adolescents are far more accepting of ambiguity than adults, they are often determined, fearless, sociable and passionate. For these reasons adolescents can be inspirational driving forces of change. Think of Malala Yousafzai, a girls’ rights activist, and Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist, as examples and the movement towards change that they have inspired. Let’s not also forget GRIT. Whilst it has been a monumental team effort to get GRIT to where it is today, I think it is reasonable to say that the inspiration and drive behind GRIT and all it stands for comes from my teenage self.
Let’s make this week a celebration of adolescents and their potential to shape the future of our world for the better. Let’s celebrate the achievements of our young people and create resources for them to thrive. Let’s also look back to our own adolescent selves and acknowledge the influence they have had on our lives today and let’s celebrate them for all they have accomplished.