Posted: 25 September 2019

Young people's future fears

Our Good Childhood Report found that young people across the UK are worrying about their futures. One third of 10-17 year olds have concerns over whether they'll have enough money in the future, and more than a quarter worry about not having a job. 

Jim Davis, Head of Youth Engagement, reflects on his conversations with young people and tells us why it's important to understand the present to support their future.

Simple but significant hopes

I’ve listened to hundreds of young people talk about their futures and about what they hope for. Sometimes those aspirations seem quite small, but significant in terms of human relationships.

'Being close to family' is often a hope expressed by young people who want to know that, as they grow up, the people that matter to them most are nearby. 'Learning to drive so I can take my Granny to the shops' was a future hope expressed by one teenage girl who spoke equally about the present and her hopeful future.

Present and future fears

The fears that young people have are also plentiful. The fear of not achieving, of failing, of not fulfilling expectations, both theirs and others. The fear of not being noticed or being noticed too much, of living somewhere that is unsafe, unsecure or just unpleasant.

More and more those fears include thoughts of how our planet will be coping with climate change and how our nations cope with political uncertainty. The future being shaped by experiences of the present. Young people seem to have enough fears to contend with, perhaps they don’t need ours as well.

Find out more about the issues affecting young people in 2019

Being fearful of young people and being fearful for young people generates a lot of fear. It’s a lot for young people to contend with and we don’t help when we don’t understand what is happening in their present and what matters to them now.

'Hard day's table tennis, son?'

Every generation is a little mystified and dismissive of the next. My Dad was utterly bemused when I started out my working life as a youth worker. Hard work meant physical labour and a visible sign of something achieved at the end of the day. What I was doing was beyond him and the fact that I was paid to do it almost laughable. I would come home late in the evening and he would ask “hard day’s table tennis son?”

Listening to young people aspire to things that I don’t understand doesn’t make them unachievable or undesirable, I just don’t get it.

But, in a week when a teenager won three million dollars in prize money playing Fortnite, when ex Love Island competitors are on TV reporting multi-million pound earnings from social media endorsements, it doesn’t seem so fanciful. I’m not going to start playing Fortnite and I think my chances of appearing on Love Island are diminishing with each grandchild I have. However, I am going to avoid layering more fears on young people just because I don’t appreciate what they value or don’t understand what they grapple with.

More appreciation and understanding about young people’s present will help us support their futures. Only by listening to young people can we help them overcome the challenges of modern childhood and face their future with hope, confidence and optimism.

It's time to show young people they matter. Pledge your support and let them know.



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