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Youth News
Youth: Are Teens Allergic to the Grange?

By Dawn Anstett, CT State Grange Youth Committee Director

  MARCH 5, 2019 --

In April of 2018, The New York Times  printed an article “Why teenagers become ‘allergic’ to their parents.”  They go over why it is important for them to go through this process of separating from their parents, to distinguish themselves from those who have supervised them from birth.  Youth in our Granges are going through the same things, how we handle this may influence if they stay and grow with us or move on.

I remember when I was given the chance to spread my wings and grow... or crash and burn.  At 14, I had just moved on from Junior Grange to the Community Grange.  My cousin Nancy and I were told we could set up a “haunted house” for the Junior Grange meeting.  So armed with duct tape and cardboard and digging out stuff they had there, we set out to do that.  Things were going well.  We had made a coffin out of cardboard, a couple of swords and gravestones, all placed behind the fake fence they had over there for other things.  That was when we heard sounds in the Grange Hall and ran out of the Grange Hall letting the front door shut behind us... yes, we were locked out.

Being a logical person, I set out to figure who we could call.  Preferably someone other than my aunt, Peggy Prelli.  She scared me and I could just imagine how mad she would be with me for locking myself out.  As I went down the list, I had my mother’s key, so she could not help me.  I knew my aunt, Phyllis Bierce was at another Grange event and others who had keys, I didn’t know their numbers.  So I had to call Aunt Peggy.

She did not give me the “look.”  I would get that at other times.  Without saying anything about us scaring ourselves and being locked out, she let us back in.  We finished up as quick as we could, those strange Grange Hall sounds could come back at any time, and we completed what we set out to do. Sometimes we have to let go and let our youth go with their ideas, just like my Aunt Peggy did for me that day.

Teenagers are going to look at our actions in one of two ways, is this something they want to adapt or are they going to disentangle from your action.  We don’t want them to feel rejected, no matter what mistakes they make.  Yes you have to allow little failures to happen and not berate them for them.  Mentoring does involve communicating with youth, allowing them to express their interests and points of view, without making them feel defensive.

Our youth have a lot to offer about how we can make them feel like they have a role in our Granges and programs we can enact to draw more interest from this age group.  I have already mentioned the value of active listening when trying to understand youth of any age.  There are also other valuable communications skills, that you can use to mentor youth.  The non-directive approach involves a good deal of listening and asking questions.  If you tell them what to do, anyone can become defensive.  We have to remember to listen more than ask.  Let them tell you what they are thinking and use your questions to help them understand how we go about getting things done.  Keep your questions open ended.  Yes and no answers can make them feel defensive.  What is it they want to try and do?  What do they have in mind, that might interest others their age?  Lastly, try paraphrasing what they said to make sure you understand what they are proposing.  Do not assume you understood what they meant.

When I listen to problems with you attendance, I am reminded that it is not just a problem with our teenagers and twenty-somethings.  As a generation Xer, I feel many of the same things as youth trying to get to meet around school events and millennials trying to build something around school, work or family events.  Any event not well attended is not a failure, we need to start to ask more questions to find out changes that need to be made.  These are conversations we all need to have.

On the first Saturday in February, Riverton Community Grange opened their doors to what would be a youth planned event.  My son, brother Rode Anstett, presented this first at their November meeting.  It took some time and he made mistakes, but by going through the process, he learned the process and the importance of responsibility, in taking something like this on.  Sometimes you have an event that you know should attract interest and just falls short.  For example, Sister Jaimie Cameron mentioned to me a program she planned for the November meeting at Ekonk Community Grange on Threatened and Endangered Birds of Prey, that she felt would interest other youth, but did not draw as many as she had hoped.  Let’s be open to asking hard questions of what we need to do as a Grange, listening to our youth, who might see things a little different and be open to make changes the next time you try and to roll something out.  After posing several questions to think about to Brother Anstett and his friend, who is trying to interest in the Grange, they came up with several changes they want to try next month, to build more interest.  Be there to guide, offer help and join us to discuss events like this at the New England Leaders Conference at the end of this month.

Damour, L (2018, April 11).  Why Teenagers Become ‘Allergic’ to Their Parents.  NY Times.  Retrieved from nytimes.com.

“Mentor Tips.”  Power 4 Youth, 2019, power4youth.org/mentor-tips/.


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