Adolescents need their parents and other adults to talk frequently with them about the major issues that confound and depress them, says Ruby Takanishi, executive director of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. Contrary to popular assumption, they also want that.
"What we find from surveys is that adolescents say they would like to have more contact and guidance on big issues from their parents and stable adults," says Takanishi, a psychologist, "but they're simply not getting it."
Adolescents rarely talk for even a few minutes before mentioning the significant adults in their lives.
Melody Johnson refers frequently to her mom as she wrestles with her ideas, and Darrell Milbourne says one thing that makes him happy is that he and his friend, Luke Smith, "get to go to real neat museums, airplane shows, King's Dominion," because Luke's dad takes them. "He's real nice to us."
Luke's older brother, Cody, who attends Virginia Tech, is "proof we can get into college," Darrell says.
A police officer in the drug awareness program at Darrell's school encouraged him to go out for sports to keep out of trouble--and it worked. A schoolteacher, he says, "put it into my head that if I work hard, stick to it, I can do what I want."
Experts also recommend that:
* Adolescents be encouraged, perhaps even required, to do community service. Tutoring, environmental projects and other programs allow youngsters to believe they can make a difference. "Feeling tied into other people is important in sustaining hope and a sense of the future," Takanishi says.
* Businesses and government set up mentoring and apprenticeship programs for young people. "We are ambiguous about preparing kids for their adult roles," Takanishi says. "That lack of information affects the anxiety young people feel."