I was very happy to meet my colleague Heather MacKenzie to prepare to deliver a teacher training retreat for an adaptation she has developed of our Mindfulness Based Living Course for young adults (13 to 18 years old), called MBLC-YA. We hope people that complete this retreat will then work in schools and with youth organisations to support young adults in cultivating Mindfulness and Self-Compassion in their lives.
Having a daughter who is just about to reach her 18th Birthday, I am familiar with the many and diverse challenges facing young adults.
My experience of young adults is that they are generally kind, optimistic, idealistic and care deeply about issues such as our environment, animal rights and the relationship between the UK and the rest of the world and are articulate in expressing their views. They work hard at school and in part time jobs with an aspiration to go on to university and a happy and successful career.
They have to accommodate a developing brain and hormonal surges. Many of us older women can sympathise about the ravages of hormonal surges on our state of mind – and we have several decades more experience of dealing with our tricky brains!
These young adults are stereotyped as hedonistic wasters, lazy and bad tempered and they suffer public discrimination. I have heard several examples of bad tempered adults, in a variety of positions of power (teachers, train conductors, etc.) shouting and disrespecting young adults in a way they would never do to those of us who are a bit older. They can act out their anger on this group with little chance of adverse consequences.
Over the years when I have told people I have a teenage daughter, they have said or implied that she must be a bit of a handful, based on the stereotype above. I have always found this very shocking, as my daughter and her friends are delightful young people deserving to be listened to and deserving of our respect.
In my experience, young people are pressurised at school to achieve high grades to reflect well on their teachers and schools. Often humiliated when they don’t come up to scratch and encouraged in a competitive hierarchy with those who succeed and those who fail. It is a system which undermines self-esteem and which does little to promote self -acceptance or self compassion. When deciding her GCSEs and A Levels my daughter was told by the adults responsible for her education that if she didn’t make the right decision her life would be ruined. Too much pressure!
After a full day at school, plus ever- growing piles of homework our young people are expected to also engage in hours of additional structured after school activities. My daughter preferred horse riding and to chill with her friends and at home. At several parents evenings, we were told that if she didn’t do after school activities, she wouldn’t get a good school reference and that she wouldn’t get into 6th form or university. She was concerned about this, we told her it was utter bo****ks and we were right.
It is no surprise that the level of mental health problems, such as eating disorders, self- harm, anxiety and depression in this age group is at an all- time high, with some regions of the UK having little or no care provision in child and adolescent mental health.
Many of the homeless people I see each Tuesday in Manchester are not much older than my daughter.
Our young adults have a lower minimum wage than the rest of us. Those that go to university will leave with £45K debt and many will struggle to find a decent job that will lead to a fulfilling career. Many will never own their own home.
So why does our education system and society give our young adults such a hard time?
For a start, they don’t have a vote. My daughter will miss the change to vote in the upcoming general election by two months. Those of us who are older and tend to vote have been better looked after in recent years with the prospect of a better state pension and winter fuel payments, both of which I fully support. But it seems that our disenfranchised young adults have been forgotten.
This is why I am so pleased about the MBLC-YA. Through training in Mindfulness and Self-Compassion we can empower our young adults to face these challenges and flourish in their world. The world is complex and rapidly changing so let’s equip our young people with the resilience and flexibility they will need.
The MBLC-YA retreat is at Samye Ling on 4-9th August and is open to all those who have done Introductory Teaching Skills (Teaching Level 1) training or the equivalent on the University of Aberdeen MSc. If you are already an MBLC qualified teacher this retreat can count as your CPD retreat for the year. You will be provided with all the training and materials you need to begin teaching the MBLC-YA.
So come and join us to help our next generation flourish and make the world a better place!