到目前為止，我們討論的都是易遭危險的年輕人。現在我想談談韌性很強的年輕人。媒體經常報導這樣的故事－－無家可歸的兒童，也可能受到虐待，父母疏於照顧，母親酗酒，父親離家出走等等，但他在高中畢業典禮時，竟是代表全體學生致詞的高材生。你會覺得奇怪，這個小孩怎麼做到的？當我們調查青少年行為時，研究這些有韌性的小孩，與研究那些墮落的小孩同樣重要。當一個有韌性的學生走上臺領取畢業證書時，你會看到有12到15個人起立鼓掌。那些人對這個學生的成功都有所貢獻。在拉丁裔社區這些人稱為「阿姨」 commadres 及「叔叔」 compadres。在亞裔社區，他們有時也被稱為「阿姨」或「叔叔」。如果有事發生時，找這些人是非常要緊的。父母常常會說：「我沒法跟我的女兒或兒子溝通。」這也許是子女覺得你是太近的親人的關係。假如有可信，可靠的成人朋友，來讓這些年輕人親近他們，更進一步讓這些年輕人來徵求他們的意見時，那麼這些年輕人就比較能夠得到協助。我們就是用這種方式來幫助第一類的學生－－剛開始顯露身處危險的徵兆的年輕人。
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So far we have been discussing young people at risk. Now I'd like to talk about young people who are resilient. The media often reports stories of children who may be homeless, who were perhaps physically abused, neglected, mother was alcoholic, father left the family, etc., and yet he or she graduated Valedictorian from high school. And you might wonder, "How could such a kid manage to do that?" When we investigate adolescent behavior, it's just as important to study the kids who are resilient as it is to study those who are falling apart. When a resilient-type student walks up to the podium to receive his diploma during high school graduation ceremony, 12 to 15 people may be seen standing up and applauding. That's because each one of those individuals contributed to that student's success. In a Latino community these people are called
commadres and compadres; in Asian communities they are sometimes called aunties and uncles. It is vital to be able to locate these individuals if something happens. Often parents will say, "I can't communicate with my daughter or my son." It may be that the child feels you are too close a relative right now. If trustworthy and reliable adult friends or relatives make themselves accessible to these young people, and if they moreover communicate to these young people their permission to seek advice from them, these young people will be in a better position to get some help and assistance. That is the mechanism by which we can facilitate a category-one student—one who is just beginning to show signs of being at risk.
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So, now that you have heard all of this doom and gloom, you might ask, "So what can we do?" First of all, attitude adjustments must be made in the community, in the home, and in the schools. We cannot afford to view gang involvement and related issues as another family's problem or another community's problem. Nor is it enough to simply say to your kids, "Just stay away from those bad boys and then everything will be okay." That's the most common reaction parents will have. But, that will not solve the problem. The reason I know it will not solve the problem is because schools can educate students, but they cannot raise them. Law enforcement professionals are there to uphold the law, but they do not provide social services. For parents to have a good relationship with these resources is important for preventing violence. We need to seek help and get counseling for these young people as soon as it's recommended or when the parents start noticing the signs. Seeking counseling after a child has become extensively involved with gangs to the point they become incarcerated—which is usually when they do seek counseling—is too little and too late.
A while ago, our Center held a conference in which we arranged a panel of students: one was Korean—an unaccompanied minor—one was Vietnamese, and one was Chinese. The audience was invited to ask them questions. One question was asked of the Korean student who was unaccompanied, his parents were back in Korea and he was living here, similar to many Taiwanese students. The question was, "What do you really want from adults and parents?" And, looking out at the audience, he said, "Would it be asking too much to have ten minutes a day to talk?" The audience was stunned. They had expected him to say, "I want a car; I want to drive; I want more money." But he said, "I want ten minutes a day, is that too much?"
The Vietnamese youngster was asked—ironically, by a politician, "What do
you think you need?" The young girl looked at the politician and said, "I want my dad to have a decent job so he doesn't have to work 14-16 hours a day so I can see him sometimes." There was nothing the politician could say.
The third panelist, the Chinese boy, had been involved in a situation that ended in a shoot-out in his own home, in a very nice area in San Diego Valley. I asked the question, "What would you like
me to do?" And he said, "Make them believe us." I said, "What do you mean?" "Make them believe that there's a problem out there." I said, "I don't understand what you're saying." "Look. I went to my mom and dad and said, 'Some of my best friends are getting involved in gangs. What do I do?' All they told me was, 'Stay away from them.' But these are my best friends. That wasn't a good enough answer. I asked my school teachers, 'What should I do. We have some individuals and a gang presence on our campus.' The school official said, 'We do not have that type of problem on this campus.' I talked to a friend of mine who worked in the police department. He said, 'We do not have that type of problem in this community."' Is there any wonder why he's given up asking adults for help? "Make them believe us," he pleaded.
By now, it should be clear, that adolescents at risk could be anybody's children. You notice I have not specified any ethnic group or economic status, because this situation is affecting all young people, regardless of ethnicity, or social or economic status. Adolescents at risk need many things, including a home environment that is safe, secure, and supervised somehow, some way. Take a good look at your own family and community environment. Children need role models who are appropriate, approachable and accessible. If there are none, we must find them. Half the kids that I see who come in referred for counseling and treatment do not need deep psychotherapy. They need a mentor, they need adult supervision and tutelage, apprenticeship, or whatever you want to call it. That's much more effective than any psychotherapy I could ever give them.
Parents, as was mentioned before, need to maintain a rapport with their children and their children's friends. Don't just lecture them when they're in trouble. One of the most important things parents or adults can say to youths is, "If you have a problem, and you need assistance, and you're confused, and you need advice or somebody got pregnant, or there were drugs, or gangs or something, I need you to come see
me. I want you to come see me and talk to me, because I care about you." I must emphasize here that they need to know they have your
permission to come and talk to you about their difficulties: "I might get mad. But I want you to know that you can come see me."
There was a classic episode on television years ago. The father sat his kids down, after he found out that a friend of his daughter was pregnant, and he said to his children, "So I know, if any of you got in trouble like that, you'd come to see me." Every one of his kids said, "No way, Dad." Even in this mythological television program of the perfect family, the kid said, "Oh no." And the father said to him, "I'm giving you permission to please talk to me about this. It's important to me. I want you to. I might get mad at first, but we would want to take care of it and go through it together. It's for us to deal with." And at that point the kid said, "Okay." Having permission is so important.
To be continued