ISSN 1091-4706 Growing up too Fast Table of Contents Growing Pains 5 I've Been an Adult Too Long
/ Marlene Peralta 7 Escape From Pleasure Island: One Family's
Growing up too Fast
Table of Contents
5 I've Been an Adult Too Long / Marlene Peralta
7 Escape From Pleasure Island: One Family'sStruggle to Reclaim a Wayward Son / William H. Evans
12 Adult Too Soon: Age-Sensitive Interventions With
Delinquent Girls / Ann Booker Loper
Helping Youth Cope
17 Diagnosing Stress: Identifying and Aiding the Pressured Child / Mary F. Longo
19 Re-Storying: Four Steps to a Better Reputation / Frank Finney
25 Heart Smarts: Developing the Head and the Heart Through Social and Emotional Learning / Jeffrey Goelitz and Jerry Kaiser
29 Meeting the Needs of Children and Youth With Challenging Behaviours / Lyndal M. Bullock and Robert A. Gable
36 Providing Youth Services Through Youth/Adult Partnerships: A Review of the Literature / Rick B. Mueller; Jonathan J Wunrow, and Eric L. Einspruch
49 Youth/Adult Partnerships in Action
from the editors
Too Much, Too Soon
Lyndal M. Bullock
Full of dreams, bubbly about her life, our daughter Brekke would often say "I am planning for the future, but I am living for today." Not a bad philosophy for any of us, but for Brekke, born with a congenital heart defect, it was an attempt to convey that she knew "today" might be all the future she would have. One of the earlier successful recipients of a series of major surgical and quasi-experimental interventions, Brekke realized all too soon how tenuous life actually was. One morning when we went into the Intensive Care Unit at the Children's Hospital to see her, she said "Dad, the little boy who was in the bed over there died last night." Indeed he had. During her numerous hospital stays in the ICU, she had personally experienced many life threatening episodes. She had also seen many children undergo serious medical procedures and known some who had not survived. Although she was not old enough to understand the full meaning of death, Brekke nevertheless recognized signs of grief in the boy's parents and the hospital personnel. She understood.
At the age of 7, Brekke began to experience seizures which frightened her and us. Many nights when I tucked her in bed she would ask, "Dad, am I going to die?" I would respond that none of us knows when death will come to us. I reassured her that if this did happen to her, Mom and Dad would be nearby and that we loved her very much!
It has been said that "being sick is lonely." And so it is. Not only is it lonely, but illness often places a child in situations that have significant mental and psychological effects for years to come. Within the supportive environment of the family, we believe Brekke always felt secure and safe. But outside the family, as she grew older and entered a world of "fair-weather friends" — teenagers who did not understand and who were every bit as cruel as teenagers can be, however unintentionally — Brekke's struggle was much more pronounced.
Although she loved school and would not miss a day unless it was absolutely necessary, she found very little solace among teachers and peers. In elementary school, she could be reasonably well protected, but in junior and senior high school, life was very difficult.
One day, for example, while changing classes in junior high school, Brekke experienced a seizure and fell in the hallway. Although some students went to the office to report what had happened other student(s) stole her purse. It was later found in the girls' restroom with all of the important contents gone. The school never found the culprit(s). Another incident occurred when the seventh-grade science class did heart rate checks after running up and down the stairs. Although Brekke should not have been participating in the event, nevertheless she was. When she reached the top of the stairs, she passed out. They immediately paged the nurse, who wheeled her to the nurse's station. In the meantime, she lost all of her science papers. As a responsible student, she checked with the teacher after school. Instead of praising Brekke for being responsible, the teacher reprimanded her for losing the papers — a situation over which she had no control.
Experiences such as these would catapult most of us into a serious state of depression and withdrawal. But not Brekke. She was a trooper, realizing (or at least rationalizing) that her peers and many adults simply did not understand what she was experiencing. Through it all, she maintained her determination to achieve today's dream. And she never lost her smile.
That smile was her trademark, the sign of her resolution to remain psychologically strong, although you knew she was suffering greatly from the insults of others. Brekke left a lasting impression on everybody who knew her. Her beautiful radiant face and that ear-to-ear smile by which she was most characterized are embedded memories.
Brekke sought to be everybody's big sister. She was concerned about her peers who were having personal and home problems. She talked with us about them and inquired as to ways she might help them. In spite of the insults, she still did not become belligerent toward those who hurt her the most.
On several occasions, Brekke had talked about a certain girl with whom she wanted to become friends. One day this girl said to her, "Brekke, I would really like to be your friend but as long as you have your problem [seizures], I just cannot be." What a blow! But Brekke, although disappointed seemed to understand.
The one time we saw Brekke in a serious state of disappointment and depression was on her 16th birthday. All her friends had been getting driver's licenses and now she fully realized that as long as she had seizures, she would be unable to drive. Even for a child as preternaturally mature as Brekke, this was a harsh dose of reality.
Oh yes, Brekke was far from being "a child who could do no wrong." She had all the characteristics of the typical adolescent, but there was evidence that life had a different meaning to her. She cherished it more. In life she cared about others and sought to accomplish as much as she could by helping others.
And in death, as traumatic as her untimely departure was to all who knew her, we were consoled because she would no longer face the struggles that would have been hers in the unknown future of her health.
After Brekke was committed to the future, we began to
realize what an effect she'd had on others. One of her casual
acquaintances wrote us, saying: "I am not certain how I'll make [it
through] the days, because every time I was feeling low, when I'd pass
Brekke in the hallway she'd flash her 'pearly whites' and I'd feel so much
better!" Members of the boys' baseball team, whose fortunes she had
followed avidly, brought us a baseball signed by the team, and they wore
arm bands in her honor at the remaining games of their season that year.
At the memorial service, two girls came by to apologize to us because they
had not treated Brekke very nicely. Several adults commented that Brekke
was an inspiration and said they had loved to talk with her because she'd
had such a good understanding of the values of life. This, they said set
her apart from her peers.
* * *
There are many young people in our schools who have health problems, some hidden and not openly discussed, that prevent their full participation in school activities. Some have supportive families, others do not. Their struggles are enormous. Their desire to excel, achieve, and be accepted is as strong as anyone else's desire, but because of events over which they have no control they have endured the unusual in their quest to become who they are today.
They are in many ways much older than their years, compelled to grow up early by being exposed to personal and psychological pain, facing uncertainty about their futures, and being prematurely familiar with death.
The information explosion of recent years has had a dramatic impact on families. It has brought the outside world into the privacy of our homes as never before. Television has created new and different role models for our youth and has turned distant events into immediate "realities." The world of cyberspace has brought new opportunities for learning and connecting, has created networking possibilities never before dreamed of. These new opportunities have catapulted our youth into arenas previously thought to be exclusively for adults.
While we applaud the positive effects of recent and emerging technological and societal changes, all is not positive for many of our youth. Many situations in which youth find themselves are forcing them to "grow up too fast," denying them the time to be young without the stresses and pressures of adulthood. In this issue of Reaching Today 's Youth, we provide information to broaden our understanding of various aspects of this topic and of what we can do to help youth grow up at their own pace.
Opening this issue is an account by Marlene Peralta, who describes her struggle to help her mother care for two younger siblings while trying to be a teenager and, later, trying to study in college. In "Escape From Pleasure Island" William H. Evans discusses how messages conveyed in popular culture encourage youth to grow up too fast in ways that can alienate them from others and lead them into downward spirals of dangerous behavior. Ann Booker Loper considers the often overlapping routes delinquent girls take in their efforts to grow up too fast — teenage parenting, physical and sexual abuse, and substance abuse. Loper details several programs and strategies for helping these girls.
Helping Youth Cope
Mary E Longo explains how children and youth can struggle when they try to accept too much responsibility too early. She discusses ways to recognize stress and provides strategies for helping children cope with stress and for helping caretakers avoid adding more stress to a child's life. In "Re-Storying: Four Steps to a Better Reputation," Frank Finney presents a powerful, child-centered approach to managing inappropriate behavior. He describes a four-step storying method providing practical strategies for helping a child complete each step and begin to change his or her behavior and "reputation" for the better. Jeffrey Goelitz and Jerry Kaiser describe the Heart Smarts"' curriculum and the tools and strategies (e.g., Balance Sheet, Freeze-Frame, Authentic Communication) it provides for helping youth develop a foundation of emotional balance and resiliency. In "Meeting the Needs of Children and Youth With Challenging Behaviors:' Robert A. Gable and I present information on conducting functional behavioral assessments. We delineate several specific guidelines that should be followed.
Helping Youth Help Others
Rick B. Mueller, Jonathan J. Wunrow, and Eric L. Einspruch provide a review of literature of youth partnerships that focuses on a strategy-based discussion of recruiting and involving youth, creating successful partnerships, and overcoming barriers to youth/adult partnerships. Also discussed are the benefits of such partnerships, relevant training manuals and materials, and assessment and evaluation. In "Youth/Adult Partnerships in Action," four programs are highlighted:
As senior co-editors of Reaching Today's Youth,
we invite your reactions to this issue of the journal and welcome your
ideas on enhancing the content of future issues. Please forward comments
and suggestions to us to Reaching Today's Youth, National
Educational Service, 1252 Loesch Road, Bloomington, IN 47404, telephone
812-336-7700, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org