We All Have a Role

We All Have a Role

I believe that everyone in this world is significant because each of us has a role to play. We are all bound to one another in this giant interdependent social web. Therefore, I also believe that our communities are simply interdependent lives influencing one another on both macro and micro levels. What one person does affects another. Perhaps this is the reason we all, at one time or the other, search for meaning in our lives. Somehow wanting to clearly understand how our role in life impacts something greater.

One study defines a role as “a set of socially constructed or co-constructed norms and expectations placed upon the role occupant.” These ‘expectations’ can be synonymous with the word ‘responsibility’.

Responsibility is a precarious term. On any given day, one may not be entirely sure when or how it shows up. Sometimes responsibility is assumed voluntarily or because of perceived obligation and other times it is thrusted upon us. No matter the circumstances, it culminates in a set of demands for which we must fulfill and to which we are held accountable by ourselves and by others.

Youth are not exempt from such pressures. Any young person that you meet is someone’s child. If they are school aged, they are a student. They may be a sibling, and probably someone’s friend or teammate. Roles and responsibilities pay no respect to age, except that in most cases, the older one gets, the more society expects us to have more of it.

However, researchers posit that the more agency and social investment a person possesses to carry out their responsibilities, the more internal motivation they have to see it through. I don’t know about you but responsibilities are inevitable – a fact of life – and I want our young people to be able to be successful with them. But how?

We must integrate factors that promote agency into youth leadership programming. One of which is a caring community which young people can tap into as they need. Adults and peers that are adept in mentorship and coaching practices can provide guidance to interested youth while they navigate these experiences.  For example, youth will inevitable come across a situation when roles and responsibilities conflict with other roles and responsibilities and may grapple for ways to make decisions. Additionally, they may be blind sighted when they realize that they underestimated the effort it would take to fulfill the role. With no prior experience to draw upon, a mentor’s knowledge and wisdom or a coaches thoughtful questioning may come in handy.

Below are some questions that I believe a person who is working with youth can utilize to coach them through navigating roles and responsibilities:

  1. How are you coping with balancing these roles and responsibilities?
  2. How meaningful are these roles to you?
  3. How can I help support you?
  4. What have you learned about yourself since assuming these roles and responsibilities?
  5. Take a look at the skills that you have developed as a result of this role. How can these skills help you achieve your goals?

These questions are deceptively difficult to answer and will require some introspection. Consequently, try to meet each question with a thoughtful amount of silence as they consider their reply.  Be careful not to give into the urge to answer for them or provide unsolicited advice. It is simply enough to pose the question, because it is only through considering their own answer will they begin their own process of growth. We all have a role.

Written by: Keira Simmonds

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