Many young people have experienced an abuse of power, whether it is through adultism, discrimination or aggression. Discussions about youth empowerment can quickly lead to these closely connected areas. Focusing on social problems so large in scope with such a devastating impact can be difficult, painful and overwhelming.
It is important to instil hope and a vision for change by approaching these difficult issues in a positive manner. We can do so by fully acknowledging the grave impact of adultism, aggression and discrimination, while focusing on positive ideas and strategies for change, instead of emphasizing examples of ways of hurting others. In this way no one going through such an experience will be re-traumatized (if they are being targeted), or feel that they are being blamed or shamed (if they are engaging in abusive behaviour). This will increase the likelihood that they will reach out and seek support either to change their behaviour if they are hurting others, or for help in healing and overcoming the experience if someone is hurting them.
By maintaining a positive focus and emphasizing the capacity for change, we also ensure that students remain hopeful, engaged and energized, rather than discouraged and immobilized.