Posted: 30 August 2016

We never say ‘not now’ to children and young people

One of the pleasures of becoming a Grandad is going up into the loft and digging out boxes of toys and books that we stashed away as our children grew up.

One of my favourites is a book by David McKee called Not Now Bernard. It is the tale of a small boy who tries to get the attention of his busy parents who repeat the refrain ’not now Bernard’.

Bernard eventually gives up and goes into the garden and meets a monster. I won’t spoil the story but suffice to say that it is the monster that ends up being tucked up in bed by Bernard’s parents who fail to notice the difference.

Sadly we know that too many young people experience the frustration of not being heard and the resulting trauma in their lives.

We know through our research and direct work with young people that too often their concerns are either ignored or not heard by adults who could make a difference. This is particularly true for teenagers who can be perceived as challenging, rather than challenged, and dismissed as just being grumpy teenagers.

How we listen to children

At The Children’s Society we have a unique and valuable way of understanding what is happening to young people, how they feel and how we can better support them.

For the last ten years we have been exploring children’s well-being through our ground-breaking research programme.

Our annual Good Childhood Report reveals what we have found by listening to young people. This accumulated understanding of young people’s lives is leading us to better appreciate the challenges many of them face.

The importance of well-being

Well-being is more than being happy with life.

It is about how equipped you are to cope with life and how you are able to respond to difficulties and trauma. When young people are faced with a traumatic experience or a series of events that threaten their stability and safety, they have to draw on their well-being and capacity to cope as well as support from others. Starting out with low well-being does not give them a firm foundation to work from.

I have seen and heard this for myself as we are invited by local authorities, schools and churches around the country to explore local children’s well-being.

Many young people are doing well and enjoying life, but a significant minority are struggling with their self-worth and well-being. They are growing into their adolescence without the support and attention they need from adults. We are starting to recognise that some young people’s well-being and mental health is not what we would hope it would be, making them vulnerable to becoming seriously ill.

Putting knowledge into practice

Through better understanding, we can provide better services and support.

One inspiring example of this is our Pause project in Birmingham, offering young people a drop-in service where they can talk about their well-being and mental health concerns in a safe environment where they will be listened to and offered support. 

‘Not now’ will never be our response to young people seeking support and a chance to say how they feel.

If you want a good book to get stuck into and to inspire and challenge, then look out for our Good Childhood Report 2016 which will be published later this month. It doesn’t have any monsters in the garden but it will challenge us to stop what we are doing and listen to what young people are trying to tell us.

Find out more about last year’s Good Childhood Report

By Jim Davis MBE - Church team