Early adolescence sometimes marks a period of diminishing communication between youth and their caregivers. At the same time, adolescents are considering their identity: who they are and who they wish to become. The process of identity development is intimately tied to youths' families. Although family relationships define young children's identities, adolescents embark on the journey of navigating independent, relational identities. Tensions from change—both internal developmental changes and external changes, such as death, divorce, remarriage, and inclusion of new family members—often arise. While adolescents may rebel against or even rebuke families, they need and depend on them. Belonging to a wider shared community, such as a faith community, can support adolescents and their families.
This curriculum is designed to provide space for youth to begin to look at their families. Understanding begins with attending and listening to each other's descriptions of their own realities. This program offers opportunities for those processes to occur. By understanding their own families, learning more broadly about families, and representing a range of healthy families, youth will gain a greater sense of family functionality and their own efficacy in contributing to it. Thinking about who serves the functions of family in their own lives may broaden youths' visions and move them toward broader notions of family health and identity.
By participating in the curriculum, and especially the photo-documentary project, youth are able to be congregational leaders. This shifts adolescents from the margins to the center of congregational life. Young adolescents are capable of profoundly abstract thought, but are sometimes uninterested in activities that are primarily verbal and/or intellectual. They need outlets that allow them to move about and to learn through experience rather than through a talking heads approach.
Developmentally, adolescents are ready to have some authority and autonomy. Creating and sharing artistic representations of families in the photo-documentary project, youth influence the congregation and act as leaders. In their work, youth may identify themselves as artists, and that enriches their emerging self-concepts and identities. The congregation also sees itself differently. The photo-documentary project serves as an interpretive mirror. Youth and the greater congregation are mutually served.
Some characteristics of the young adolescent include:
In older adolescents you may witness:
The Families program offers ways to support the younger/older adolescent:
By adapting activities or using alternate activities, you can help ensure that every session is inclusive of participants with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations. Below, you will find general guidance on adapting the activities along with some resources for implementing inclusion.
As you plan your sessions, be aware of activities that might pose difficulties for youth who are differently abled. All spaces, indoor and outdoor, need to be accessible to anyone who might be in the group. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables, and the terrain of outdoor landscapes.
Find out about participants' medical conditions and their allergies, particularly to food, if you plan to serve snacks.
Each session mixes active and quiet, expressive and listening, and whole-group and individual activities, along with alternate activities that you can substitute for core activities if you feel they better suit a group. As you begin to recognize different learning styles among the participants, let this information guide your selection of activities for each session.
Some activity descriptions mention specific concerns or suggest adaptations under the heading "Including All Participants." Feel free to devise your own adaptations to meet any special needs you perceive. As the leader, you will know best how to provide a fully inclusive learning experience for the group.
In the Teacher Development section of the UUA website, you will find descriptions of a helpful resource Sally Patton's Welcoming Children with Special Needs.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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