Reassurance by Katie Reynolds

A wise man once said to me, ‘The difference between working with children and teenagers is: children want to know “am I awesome?” and teenagers want to know “am I normal?”

The answer to children is, of course, yes – you are awesome! Actually, we are all awesome in so many ways and maybe we need to be reminded of that whatever our age and stage of life?

The answer to teenagers is, yes, you are normal, everyone has their doubts and questions and wonders if they are the only one that feels that way they do. Teenagers have so many questions about life, how they feel, what they think, and it is ‘normal’ to feel whatever it is they are feeling. Being a teenager is like a journey into the unknown, it is about discovering who they are, their likes and dislikes, what is important to them and why. All this is normal.

One of the things teenagers need from adults around them is reassurance. They need to be reassured that they are normal, to be reassured that it’s OK to wonder if they are normal and if they are the only one that is thinking or feeling something. I’m sure we can all think of a time when we just needed someone to reassure us and the difference it made at that moment. We all have those times when we need someone to tell us that somehow, in the end, it will all be OK, that we can get through this and that someone believes in us.

Initially it might not sound like a big life changing concept, but to be reassured can make a huge difference. A teenagers’ fears and doubts are very real, by simply listening and allowing them to process these, it can make a real difference and help to put their mind at rest. Reassuring a teenager is as simple as ‘being there’ for them, validating their feelings and affirming who they are. For instance, sitting down with them and giving them time and space to talk about what’s on their mind, giving them permission to express their thoughts and feelings out loud. Then reminding them of who they are, their qualities and achievements so far. Telling them that you believe in them, that they can get through this.

I can’t take credit for the wise man’s words to me, but I am grateful for his advice and it has become an essential component of my practice over the last 25 years of mentoring young people. It has helped them as they have navigated their way thought their teenage years.

Next time you have an opportunity to reassure someone or tell someone they are awesome, take it, you will be making a difference, maybe more than you will ever know!

Katie Reynolds has been working with young people for 25 years and is the mentoring coordinator for CAST, a charity working with young people in secondary schools in Kent. She is married and has two teenage sons. She spent her formative years in youth work in Thornbury!