Our mistakes don’t make us bad people; rather they shape or influence who we choose to become. The choices we make are part of healthy human development and can best be described as effective learning.
Our developmental tasks during adolescence center on achieving a sense of identity regarding who we are and where we fit into society as adults.
Some examples of developmental tasks during adolescence as outlined by psychologists are:
- Self-sufficiency: Youth need to develop a new understanding of their relationships with primary caregivers. These relationships become more collaborative and less dependent.
- Life partnerships: Youth need to explore and understand choices about marriage, family, and parenthood. This involves identifying their values and attitudes regarding societal norms and expectations for life partnerships.
- Vocation: Youth need to choose an occupation that is commensurate to their skills, the opportunities available to them, and whether the occupation can support their desires for adulthood.
- Values: Youth need to become in tune with their vision of what are the important rules to live by. This involves finding ways to develop personal moral values to guide behavior.
- Role in community: Youth, using their interests and preferences, create a niche that will allow them to connect with something bigger than themselves.
Too many youth don’t get the support they need during adolescence to reach adulthood.
We can’t expect unmet developmental needs to somehow disappear. People may reach adulthood in physical age, but too often they are developmentally much younger.
Societies across the globe have made the grave mistake of routinely letting youth fail. Not supporting the development of skills related to impulse control, long-term goal setting and problem-solving during adolescence is a mistake.
This leads to more adults requiring social services in just a few years into the future. This short-sighted approach is draining our social services.
It is incumbent that youth workers help youth become fully developed adults.
Youth workers must be able to identify stages of human development and know how to work with youth in completing developmental tasks. Many of the trainings that the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA) provides are somehow connected to this task.
A conversational style training called the Trials and Tribulations of Adolescence explores the developmental tasks and complexities of this important stage of human development. It is free to YIPA members.
No matter your preferred method of improving your knowledge, skills, and confidence in working with adolescents, society is counting on you to help youth become productive adults with a vested interest in their communities.
Paul Meunier is the Executive Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA)