About the Author

Bianca Olthoff is an (in)courage alumni who spends most of her time working as Chief Storyteller for The A21 Campaign, a global anti-human trafficking organization. By day she's a freedom writer who advocates for justice, but at night she's a step-mom who loves to have dance parties with Parker, Ryen, and Ricci [a.k.a. The...

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  1. I’m 19 this year and the memories of all the internal troubles I went through when I was back in high school came flooding back as I read your post. Now every time I encounter middle/high school kids who are a bit rebellious or have an attitude issue, I see a younger me (I used to have a bad attitude problem myself) and I’m reminded that I must listen to them instead of judging them.
    Great post on a very relevant topic. God bless

  2. fabulous post, of course as a mother I love to see my children look the part of conforming and respect ( five, 21- 12 ), but I am much more worried about their hearts.
    I’ve been there, and I wonder if because we are so afraid of our struggles , we are afraid to see theirs.

  3. @MX: Thank YOU for sharing! Someone coming from high school is still super connected and able to reach them effectively. I pray God use you greatly!
    @Deb: If you can get to their heart, rules are easy. We can’t change behavior without Christ changing their heart. Love your insight!
    @Marilyn: Can I steal that quote? That was awesome!!!

  4. love it Bianca…it helps! I have a 13 going on 14 yr old son at home and it’s frustrating when he won’t open up…dealing with symptoms of depression, maybe cutting (i think experimenting), and just a sort of back and forth between dark and light….it hurts me when he hurts, but not sure how to help when he won’t talk…your post is encouraging…

  5. Where do our memories of our youth go once we become adults? Kids in this day and time do seem to face more than they did when I was growing up, but I (we) should never forget what we went through with our parents and peer pressure, etc. while growing up. I look at my 16-year-old niece and I am glad that I am not a teenager living in 2010.

  6. Great post and so true! I mentored a teen girl recently that was considered to be “different” and truly all she wanted was to be listened to. It makes a huge difference in their lives when they have some one just listen to them! I know it made a difference in my life when the adults I looked up to listened to my heart!

  7. My teens have always known that “mama will stay up as late as you want … if you want to talk”. Sometimes, that is VERY late. I have sat at the kitchen counter with a teen until 3:00 a.m. I have sat on the living room couches for hours, while the teens “took a number” to see who could talk next. Seriously … they have lined up for their nightly talks with Mama.
    At one point, several years ago, we had 6 teens of our own and 2 extra teens living in our home … in addition to our 4 “little ones”. Life was CRAZY, but I loved it!
    I also love to take my teens and young adults out for dinner or coffee … one-on-one time is the BEST.
    I have found that if you show that you REALLY care … and the teens know that you aren’t going to JUDGE them … they will usually talk. But, you have to let them set the time and place and pace … let them control the conversation, don’t go in with your own agenda.
    Great post, B. My husband taught at 3 different private Christian schools. Yikes! The hypocrisy is overwhelming … the need to “look good” on the outside, while the teens hearts are in turmoil. So sad.
    Laurel 🙂
    mama of a dozen

  8. I am totally involved in Young Life. We try to reach the furtherest out-there kids. Our motto is “We have to earn the right to tell kids the gospel” and we do that by being there, by listening, by loving all over these kids. I often have wondered how my life would be different if I had known about Young Life when I was in HS. I am so thankful that, even though he’s grown up in a Christian home, my son has a Young Life leader that he adores who adores him and spends time with him. Mom and Dad just can’t do or be everything for our kids. Thank the Lord for those willing to pick up the slack…

  9. Great post as always Bianca…I pray I remember this when my children become teenagers, to remind myself they don’t need to be preached to, but a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Thank you for this!

  10. @christy: Thanks for sharing such an intimate detail of your life. I’m praying. Hard.
    @Patricia: ME too!!!
    Love the insights and comments. I have a bleeding heart that I wear on my sleeve! Sorry for sounding so sappy 😉

  11. Adolescence is a most difficult time. That is when life begins to hurt more…I remember. From some stories in the media, there seems to be even more terrible hardships presently during this time. A 16-year-old in our church recently committed suicide. Everyone said he was so full of life and so giving. I looked at that happy face on his Facebook memorial page and couldn’t understand why he hadn’t talked to someone. It’s a mystery none of us can solve now. We only hold the grief. I remember not asking my busy children to even help with lots of household chores because school and church asked so much of them. I couldn’t add more on their young shoulders. I would have been overwhelmed at all that was asked. How do we protect them from our society. I feel it is out of control. The church tries. Parents try, but there seems to be a momentum ‘out there’ that has a diabolical center. So I pray and try to live peacefully from another kind of center. A Greek word comes to mind ‘metanoia’. Metanoia properly understood is a push forward toward something better for us and for our world. It is a positive change that brings us closer to what God intends for God’s creation. I will pray for metanoia.

  12. I am behind on my incourage reads, and I just read Annie’s post before yours. They go perfectly together. Thank you for reminding me to PAY ATTENTION to those teens/young adults that just want to be heard. They need someone to give a hoot. I pray I don’t gloss over those opportunities that God places in my path. Thank you for this!

  13. I am a few steps behind Kristen (just above) and feeling the same way. The kids in my neighbourhood need me to pay attention TO them, and not to pass by and wave AT them. Thanks for this encouragement!

  14. I just graduated from high school a couple of years back, but I remember the times when I felt so frustrated with what was going on in my life, be it school work, friends, family and ministry, that I contemplated suicide. I thank God that I had a friend who noticed something amiss and talked to me, and a dearest elder brother who, at the prompting of another church friend, instituted “midnight talks” with me. I used to feel that no one really cared; I mean they did, to an extent, but somehow I didn’t feel loved (though, in my mind I knew I was, strange huh). But because of my brother and my friend, I got through that phase relatively unharmed, and my relationship with my brother grew stronger and stronger (we used to hardly say more than two words a day: Hi, Night)
    I tried to do that when I started serving in church, tried to establish real relationships with the younger youths in my church, to really sit down and listen to them. I find that, once we are motivated by love, and begin to truly see each youth as they are, as God sees them, to love them for who they are, wanting to listen to them is such a natural thing to do. However, I can see that even some of the care group leaders for the youth ministry in my church back in Singapore are not willing to listen; they only want to teach and talk and expect the kids to absorb, when the kids are so restless during bible study because they want to be heard and understood and loved, rather than be taught down to.
    There is definitely a need to listen more to the youths. Thanks, Bianca, for this great post. It really doesn’t take too much, really. All it takes is for a person (doesn’t even have to be too much advanced in years or in faith; I’m only 22, and hardly the most mature) is to want to love someone – whether younger in age or spiritual maturity.. or even a peer! – and be willing to sit down and listen. That was really all it took for my elder brother to guide me out of my suicidal tendencies (he’s hardly the most eloquent person anyway).
    It’s really about loving them, one youth at a time. It sounds difficult, but it doesn’t have to be 🙂