By Lindsey Kahney
Module 2: Adolescent Development
Adolescence is a difficult time for many, compounded with ongoing stressors at school, home and with peer groups, youth may enter into a crisis or even experience a runaway episode. Module 2: of the evidence-based Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum is designed to teach youth about the aspects and challenges associated with adolescent development. It gives youth a chance to have honest discussions about what they are dealing with biologically, psychologically and even socially. These changes can be stressful but Let’s Talk allows young people to make sense of adolescence and their developing sense of identity.
It’s important to first discuss what adolescence really is and understanding some of the concepts and terms. In the first activity, Let’s Talk provides a quick reference guide for facilitators and participants that go over frequently asked questions and terms.
- What are the transitions of adolescence?
- What happens during this period?
- What do the terms autonomy or identity development mean?
Being able to answer some of these questions and identify these terms helps youth better understand this period in their lives as well as sets a foundation for participating in the additional Let’s Talk activities.
So what is identity development? This term is all about asking yourself questions like “Who am I?” and, “Where am I going in life?” These questions are not necessarily unique to adolescence. In fact, most people ask themselves these questions throughout their lives. However, in adolescence, sometimes these questions can be especially challenging to answer.
By getting a chance to develop their “I-Space” page participants are able to talk about how they feel, what makes them happy, and what is important to them. Not only is this a great way for youth to understand self-concept (“I describe myself as…) but also foster self-esteem (“I’m good at…). This is also a great way to bring a group together. It gives participants a chance to explore their own self as well as learn about their peers.
While we wanted youth to be able to learn about adolescent development, in general, we also wanted to connect back to how these concepts relate to runaway youth issues. Youth run away for many reasons. They may be having problems with friends, family, or school but it’s also important to consider the issues related to adolescent development that factor in.
For example, some youth run away to gain a sense of autonomy or independence in their lives. Others may run to connect with a peer group that bolsters their self-esteem and self-image. Young people may find themselves in a variety of difficult situations that make the option of running away appear like the only way out.
In the final activity of Module 2, youth get to put themselves in the shoes of a youth going through a tough time and ask the question “Would you run, too, if it happened to you?” They get a chance to discuss possible consequences, both positive and negative, of running away, as well as, what they would do in their own lives if put in a difficult situation.
It’s so important for young people to have a safe place to talk about these issues but also to understand they are not alone. Developing a dialogue to talk about self-identity and dealing with stressors as they arise is one of the main goals of Let’s Talk. We also want youth to know that we, the National Runaway Safeline, are always here to listen and here to help.
Find Module 2 here, available as a PDF.