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‘Create a ‘safe’ environment where youth can speak out’

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MANILA, Nov. 3, 2013 – If your teenage daughter’s behavior shocks you now, wait till you hear what she really thinks, a communication strategist said. 

According to a communication strategist Edwin Lopez, young people just need to feel safe from premature judgments and lecturing, for them to speak out their mind. 

“If we can assure them of a safe environment, they become very talkative and they will allow us to listen to their intra-personal script,” Lopez said during a recent interview. 

During one of the talks at the recent Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, Lopez also shared his own experience of hearing his adopted 14-year old son’s ‘intra-personal’ script or a person’s personal, unfiltered thoughts and how it had been a shocking eye-opener. 

“You’ll be scared by what you hear, it will make you nervous,” he said of the experience. 

Teen suicides 

Despite the stereotype of the uncommunicative teenager, Lopez says, the stakes remain high for open communication lines between parents and young people – possibly, a matter of life and death. 

During the interview, Lopez, who is the Asia-Pacific international manager for the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), cited a study that identified problems with parents as the number one cause of suicide among young Filipinos. 

“A toxicologist himself told me this…That would give us an indication that they are not listened to,” he said. 

Though Lopez did not mention the specific study, a 2011 National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) paper on suicide in the Philippines indeed identified family and relationship problems as the leading reason for suicide in the Philippines with the highest number of suicides coming from those below 24 years old. 

Safe environment 

“It’s terrifying. Something is terribly wrong at home,” Lopez, who is also lay commission head of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications, added. 

To tap into what young people are really thinking and feeling, he said, parents, educators and other people in authority should listen to their frustrations, problems and dreams.

The idea of a ‘safe environment’ not only helps parents understand their kids more, it also frees them to perform better and unleash individual potential. 

‘Magical’ in the classroom setting 

As an educator, Lopez makes it a point to make his students feel safe in the classroom setting and surprisingly, he has seen only positive effects as a consequence. 

“They know no one will get scolded. They know no one will flunk the course. Every time I assure them that everyone will pass the subject, all the ones we thought were not so smart, suddenly became intelligent,” he described. 

He even went so far as to call this safe environment “something magical” because of “a spirit of acceptance and encouragement.” [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]


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