2020 was a big year. Looking back on it can feel overwhelming and reminds us of the difficult conversations, eye-opening events, and rapid changes it brought. Big Sister Jessica Puga has been mentoring for over a year, experiencing the upheaval as COVID precautions were put in place and heavy topics were brought to the forefront. As a school counselor, previous BBBSM employee, and current Big Sister, Jessica has a valuable perspective on the benefit mentors are providing to our community’s youth during this time.
What concerns are youth having during this time?
I think the biggest concern our youth are facing is adjusting to this new norm. The pandemic has brought so many new changes in their lives and they are just expected, just like adults, to figure it out. Our youth are held to the same expectations as before and they are struggling. Families have new stressors in their lives that our children are also trying to figure out. Just like us, our youth are struggling and these are the moments that they need the most support and reassurance.
How do you feel they are handling the immense changes 2020 brought?
I think it has been a struggle for all of us and especially our youth. A lot of youth are paying for the consequences of our actions and failed actions. They are feeling overwhelmed and tired and probably alone. They sometimes feel unheard and silenced. How can adults help youth during this time?
In my opinion, as adults we can actively listen, ask questions, and empathize with our youth. Even if our youth are not asking the questions, we need to feel more comfortable asking them ourselves to check in and see where they are. I’m learning to ask more and more questions about things and it allows me to see where my mentee is at with things and allows her to open up and share her views. I don’t ever want her to feel like she is not being heard in this society and I want her to know that her voice/opinion matters.
What advice would you give to Bigs (or potential Bigs) in helping and talking to youth during this time?
Don’t be afraid to have conversations with your mentee. It is so important to address what is going on and allow our youth to share their views with someone. My mentee is comfortable enough to ask questions when she wants and I’m happy that she knows that she trusts me enough to listen and provide a different perspective. Go out there and attend events! Get informed on what is going on and listen to other perspectives/views. Be open to change and acknowledge our differences.
As a Big, your Match Support Specialist is available to help navigate the difficult conversations and changes occurring in your Little’s life. Resources are also available to help you feel better prepared when the hard topics come along. If you are interested in becoming a Big and helping youth during this time, please reach out to us and Be A Big.