‘Letting loose’ in the wake of the pandemic

Agitated and restricted. This was the feeling coming from a group of teenage boys after a year under lock down or the threat of lock-down.

“I could see they needed to let loose a bit,” says Charles, one of the volunteers at Young Life’s summer camp in South Australia.
“I could so clearly see the need in these guys for good male mentorship to give them the space to let loose and for it to be safe. Camp gave them that space.”

Tracking the effect of the past year and the pressures felt by young people, has many experts concerned. Maggie Dent is a well-known author and educator on parenting teens. She surveyed boys age 12-18 years observing significant concern about the future. “Many boys expressed serious worries about climate change, political unrest, increasing violence, an inability to buy their own home and increased mental health challenges – and that was pre-COVID-19,” she writes in The Guardian*.

Add to this, the pandemic’s impact which “removed many of the protective factors in their lives last year – extracurricular activities, sport, the arts, rituals like school camps and formals, and being locked away from friends and peers – many are struggling overtly or silently.”

It was this sense, of youth needing something to look forward to, that motivated Young Life Australia to move quickly when it appeared restrictions were easing.

“After missing out in January 2020 due to bushfires we had to show the young people we work with that they are worth planning a camp for, even if we had some uncertainty due to the rapidly changing COVID situation,” says Ben Hura, co-Director of the NSW-ACT Camp.

“Trying was more important than not trying at all.”

Sophie Wilksch, Young Life’s SA Camp Director adds, “we wanted to give our teens something to smile and laugh about; but the real effect I saw was these teens showing confidence, getting out on the skis and kneeboard, willing to give it go after year of low-confidence and genuine struggle”.

“I’m so glad we gave them that opportunity.”

Read Layla’s SA Summer Camp report in Connections.

Learn more about Young Life programs at younglife.org.au/events

*The post-high school hole: how to help school lavers in a time of transition, by Maggie Dent appeared in The Guardian, Jan 24, 2021