Dr. Rich Patterson

Helping Youth Live the Hard Times

Time in the forest regardless of the weather is among my most favorite times of all.  Whether hiking, snowmobiling, light-weight backpacking, or wilderness canoe trips paddling through the waters of Quetico Provincial Forest, at times I wonder to myself, how do I find my way?  I’m not always sure where the correct path is, or the right trail, yet with experience, knowledge and a willingness to take a chance I find my way to where I’m going and back again.  For our kids, such is not the case in their lives.  They aren’t sure of themselves, they don’t have the experience and are easily shaken from their dreams, beliefs and confidence with the smallest of things.  Many kids are even unwilling to take the chance in the first place, can’t even dream of traveling their unknown paths, thus they are unwilling to even try. Without some encouragement from us adults, they just feel like giving up, like why try because it won’t work anyway.  Yet this is not what we want for them at all.

As an adult if you think about some of the difficult times in your life, I mean the really difficult ones where you just didn’t know what to do, when you were less than sure of yourself or unwilling to even dream some possibilities, you begin to uncover times that you can share with kids.  Stories about choices, thoughts and how things turned out.  The difficult times in our life are relatively short in comparison to the good times that we experience.  But they are the times that often stand out the most.  If we can teach our youth to be strong during those times of doubt, the times of difficult choice then we give them a determination, a strength that comes only from learning and understanding perseverance.  Learning resolution and a certain doggedness comes from sharing your personal stories of those difficult times with them, those hard times when you really weren’t sure what to do. They don’t have to be times when everything turned out right, no in fact, it is far better to share those stories when maybe you didn’t make the best choice and then share how you worked through it to where you are today.

What would be your advice?  What stories about your difficult moments can you share with kids that will help inform their journey down the snowy forest road in the photo above?  When I am up in the Canadian wilderness everything looks alike sometimes.  One island or rock feature looks like the next one, yet I know that a wrong decision will cost me hours of time and a lot of energy, which I only have so much of.  You learn to read fine details of landscape, direction, wind, and sky to help make an informed decision.  Often you are not sure that you are 100% right, but over time you move and flex with what you’ve decided knowing that overall you’re headed in the right direction.

I encourage you today to sit down with a young person with whom you have access and share some interesting and difficult times.  Make the stories fairly short and to the point, and then quickly find ways to relate the story to their life, to things they are experiencing or will experience in there life.  It really help to tell them you didn’t always know if you were doing the right thing, but that you were able to stick with it, to flex with the choice in order to make it work.

Enjoy the process . . . .