the Athena Group

Athena Bulletin

What Is Your Youth?

A lot of us working with youth today came from hard times. Whether we came from adversity or trauma, or if we grew up in challenging ways, we have to take care of our heart. The times we live in today are conscientious and aware of how these hard times affect us. This article is about surviving youth. Your youth.


Your youth is two things: First, it's the time you lived when you weren't seen as a child or as an adult. Second, it's the young people you are meaningfully connected to right now, whether they're your children, students, program participants or otherwise. Youth isn't "yours" in terms of possession; it's yours because you are engaged in youth, whether we're talking about the time of your life or the people you serve.

You need to survive your youth if it's affecting your adulthood in negative, hard or challenging ways.

Over the past 20 years, I've facilitated self-care learning for thousands of teachers, youth workers and other adults who work with youth. Many people have shared that their awareness of the adverse childhood experiences they lived through as young people shine through in their current jobs. They specifically work to support young people growing up with abuse, household challenges and/or neglect, and they're very committed. These people are surviving youth.


Many people are surviving the challenges of their younger years at the same time they're working to support young people. When we work within these realities, we have to be precautious, patient and promising for ourselves.

Here are three ways I teach people to survive their youth.

  1. Be Precautious. Your experiences make you relatable and grant you powers of reciprocity. However, they can make you vulnerable, too. If you haven't addressed your childhood trauma intentionally, if you haven't addressed your wounds and sought healing, then be precautious. Even if you have dealt with your suffering and challenges but still hyper-react, overreact or otherwise act disproportionately to the situations, you might need to continue being precautious. Take care of your heart.
  1. Be Patient. While you may want to challenge your own inabilities or charge into changing yourself and the world, you should be patient. Your calmness and self-control can be a model for the young people you work with, however you positively express them. If you feel anxious, excited or too ambitious, be patient and know that the challenges of your younger years are teaching you right now. Allow calmness to hold your heart.
  1. Be Promising. Seeing a greater picture, understanding the wider world and knowing the best possibilities are the best way to be promising to yourself. Don't make promises you can't keep, and don't promise things you can't follow through. However, hold your heart accountable, listen to your intuition and keep yourself true and honest with what you know best. Set the bar for your heart and keep yourself accountable.

Surviving your youth is essential to being a hopeful, supportive and effective adult ally to children and youth. The steps above can help you understand where to begin doing that. There are a number of great resources emerging in the field, and more organizations are supporting their staff dealing with their trauma as well as promoting trauma informed care throughout education, youth services, at home, throughout communities, and beyond.

However, ultimately you need to deal with your youth. Soothing the inner challenges can only go so far, and these steps are simply triage for the complex wounds you might have. Deal with those challenges, get help and move forward in your career, your family and throughout your life.

After working in hundreds of communities nationally, I am primed to explore this more. Call me to talk about my consulting, training and speaking services at (360) 489-9680.


Adam Fletcher is a principal consultant at the Athena Group who has worked with children, youth and adults for more than 25 years to build powerful, positive and purposeful engagement throughout the lives of young people. After spending a decade providing direct services to low-income, foster, homeless, runaway, immigrant and other historically disengaged youth in the United States, Adam began consulting nonprofit organizations, government agencies, K-12 schools and other groups. Since 2001, he has worked with more than 500 clients worldwide; started more than 50 youth-serving projects; written 8 books and five curricula; facilitated more than 1,000 trainings; and given more than 250 keynote speeches at conferences. Learn more about Adam Fletcher.

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