Understanding systems increases teens’ ability to understand who they are and what their role is in society. By discussing the news, politics, economics, and society, in a broad sense, they are able to see their responsibilities and consequences by understanding how people operate and how systems work.
By contributing their opinions and having discussions like this, they gain self-esteem, because they feel like they have a voice and can be challenged or challenge someone else, in a meaningful way, for understanding. If you ask a question, wait a while, and when you need clarification ask, “can you help me understand what you mean by____,” or you can say, “say more…I’m listening.”
If you feel like the discussion is going down the wrong path, try to steer it by using an example or a hypothetical scenario. Remember, it’s not an exam, they are allowed to make incorrect statements. It is important that they feel safe exploring ideas and having misunderstandings. Most of the time, it is us misunderstanding what they mean by what they are saying.
Teens don’t yet have the vocabulary or articulation to communicate effectively, that is why offering the time and safe space is important. Otherwise, they will feel like they don’t have a point of view. If they respond by saying, “I am not sure,” go back to the previous response and reframe what they said.
Once they feel validated by what they said previously, they will be encouraged to keep going. Say things like, “it’s ok, you made a good point about___,” or, “we can move on, but I like what you said about ____, tell me more about that.” This will help them move on and keep expanding on their thoughts. You totally Got this!