A safe place connotes a conducive and enabling environment to be yourself and pursue your goals and dreams without fear or any inhibition. We all need that safe place to blossom and flourish.
What does a “safe place mean to a young person? This takes me down memory lane to my adolescent years. Look I’m not that old *wink… Lol😀.
As a teenager while growing up I and my sisters – we are four by the way, had more male friends than girls. The percentage was 90-10%… I am serious here…. So you can imagine the “fear & terror”, this must have brought to my parents… Hahaha. As African parents or any parent at all there is that extra carefulness you adopt when it comes to raising girls. Often you will hear parents especially mom’s like mine say something like this : “Eyin omo yi, e ma doju timi o!”. Meaning ‘Don’t bring shame to the family “, and by that they mean” do not get pregnant o“! “Becareful with boys”. Are you following my gist? So four teenage girls in the hands of my parents was a huge task in their minds.
Yearly we would organize our special Boxing day party for all the teenagers in our neighborhood and Youth group in church and we would have a hard time trying to get more girls to come to our party. I was the chairman organizing committee leader and sometimes I will hope and pray that my father will not adjust his glasses to access why we had more boys in attendance… “poor me”.
But you know what, admist all the adolescent age drama with friends and parents I felt safe and was able to express myself. I don’t know who taught my parent this wisdom I am about to share but it worked!
Instead of policing us and putting all our activities under a microscope my parents decided to have an open door policy. Our friends whether males or females were allowed to visit our home and they even get to gist with my parents. My Dad will engage us all in a friendly discussion and soon we would all be laughing. My friends back then thought my dad and mum were cool. While dad engages us in a gist, mum will be busy serving snacks or any food available in the pot. Unknown to us it was a strategy to learn more about who our friends were; possibly investigate what we have been up to. Mostly for us, we felt free to bring our friends home and be ourselves.
Now did we ever experienced that parent versus adolescent clashes? Of course plenty… Lol. However our parents open door policy was a check mate for us. Anytime Dad begins to raise some extra questions about a particular friend we were quick to understand that something wasn’t right because he hardly complained about our friends. So without having to breath down our necks, I and my siblings always found ways to cut off such friendship. I found out that I could speak to my mum intimately about my crushes and issues with the opposite sex.
Every time we have a chance to talk about our adolescent years at family reunions, it is usually with fond memories. 💑 Of course life is never perfect but we thoroughly enjoyed those years.
So back to my gist about creating Safe Places for Young People, I say it is doable. Mostly adults have the major responsibility of making young persons feel safe. We can do this by creating an enabling environment where young people can:
1. Be free to express themselves.
2. Have a listening ear who will be there for him or her.
3. Have a loving home environment.
4. Have a space and opportunities that allows them access to information about life: their wellbeing and reproductive health.
5. Give room for them to bring to the table their questions about issues that trouble people in their age group without fear of being judged.
The International Youth Day is celebrated every 12th of August yearly and this year’s theme is “Creating Safe Places for Young People”.
As a parent are you intentional about creating a safe place for your adolescents? Instead of adopting the “body guard” approach create an atmosphere that allows your children to express themselves. Build a relationship that gives room for conversations that will help guide them in making informed and right choices.
Adebisi Adetunji (C) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Media content provider, Trainer & consultant, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer, Principal Producer (FRCN) Catch me on Twitter @DebisiBusybee Facebook & email – firstname.lastname@example.org