Adults’ behavior can cause a “trickle down” effect on the behavior of youth — good and bad. Often a young person will learn habits and viewpoints from an older sibling or a parent. And, too often, that behavior can be bad behavior; it’s terrible to think that a youth will follow the footsteps put out before him or her — when the footsteps lead them terribly astray.
I have really started thinking about myself as role model. I don’t have kids of my own, but have quite a few nieces and nephews, who range from 5 to 25 years younger than me. These kids (most of them adults now, and some with kids of their own) have witnessed me, their aunt, in many stages — young and rebellious and full of bad behavior; as a young adult trying (and often failing) to be a responsible grown-up; and, now, as an adult coming to terms with my own behaviors and trying hard to be a good and responsible human.
I sometimes cringe when one of my grown nephews reminds me of “the way I was” — a girl who did not make a lot of good decisions, a partyer, a bored teen susceptible to peer pressure and an overwhelming desire to be “cool.”
I realize that I will never not be a role model to someone — not only to my younger family members but to the youth that I encounter through Straight Up, and elsewhere. The lessons learned from Straight Up are ones I need to absorb more fully in my day-to-day life.
I need to be brave enough to keep lines of communications open to any youth that I know; to talk honestly about my past; to be able to guide and influence and be there for those people who need me.
I need to remind others — youth, adults, parents, friends — that they, too, are role models. We all need to do our part to show the next generation of kids “coming up” that there is a way to live one’s life in a responsible fashion.
Becky Newman works for Straight Up Ventura County.