Congratulations on making the decision to take this course.
There are five lessons in total and we recommend you reading them in sequence first
before deciding the best way to share them with the young adults in your charge.
Each lesson has a clear focus broken down into a number of key discussion points.
You are best placed to decide whether you invite your teenager to read the course, listen to it as an audio book, or whether it is best you take a walk or two together to discuss the key takeaways together.
Introduction for Parents
The lessons which follow are written for and aimed at teenagers, and the teachers and parents who support and guide them.
You will not find, in all of history, a generation of adolescents confronted daily with a world as complex or interconnected or overwhelming as the one we share today.
As human beings evolved over the last 70,000 years we began to move out of Africa and explore the possibilities of living in groups as hunter-gatherers – groups of perhaps 10 – 30 people. Like lion cubs or baby elephants, young humans learnt from those around them, by observing, by participating, by imitating, and through trial and error.
Some time around 15,000 years ago, some of these groups discovered plants which could be cultivated year-round, and began to develop the skills and understanding to domesticate animals like goats and pigs. This changed everything. If a tribe could stay in one place, they could build more permanent structures. If they could grow crops they could store surplus and trade with other groups. Groups became settlements, settlements became villages of many hundreds, villages became cities of thousands. Work became hierarchical and relationships between members of these large groups became ever more complex. What we call culture blossomed and was given its unique shape by each of these isolated settlements.
Today, your children are born into this world essentially the same as children born into a village 10,000 years ago. They are wired exactly the same: to grow, develop, test the limits of their environment, question, experiment and learn. A child, wherever she is born, absorbs the culture of the world around her.
The village, however, has changed beyond anything humans just 50 years ago could have imagined. How we pass on culture and identity today, how young people absorb these messages and share them has changed fundamentally and dramatically in such a short time, we don’t really have a clear idea what is happening or how to manage it.
If you are worried about your teenage child, you are not alone. Professionals around the world are reporting unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, suicide, eating disorders and disengagement among adolescents; irrespective of country, race, religion, gender, family size or whether they are part of single-parent or extended families.
I encourage you to read these five walks. Then try to coax your teenage child to read them (or listen to the audiobook). Ideally, you will have a lot of material to talk about. If your child is unwilling or unable to complete the read, you will still find many useful tools and starting points from which to build your own strategies and pathways through which to help and guide your child.
As you read the following pages, think about your child reading them. Think about the conversations you would like to start with them. And the actions you might suggest they try, with your support.