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Snapdragon blog

Keep them alive 'till 25

teenage qualities

Last week a friend and I were talking about our time at University - questioning how much we had actually learned at a subject level but marvelling at how well it had worked as 4 years of space, away from family and childhood friends, to figure out who we actually were and to learn skills like using a washing machine and dealing with bureaucracy.

It reminded me of one of the most influential TED talks I have ever watched was about teenage brains and how they develop by Sarah Jane Blakemore. In it she talks about the important changes in the brain between the ages of 14 and 24, changes that explain a lot of the teenage behaviour that irks parents the most.

Another fantastic TED talk on a similar subject is by Jill Bolte Taylor which encourages parents to see their role simply to keep kids "alive until they are 25".

I would go further and give that role not just to parents but to the wider society and I would also change that "staying alive" into "being alive". This incredibly important 10 years - the most important time for brain development - is primarily a time to explore, to play, to take risks, to become obsessed, to try new things, to fail, to live at a full on level.

It is a time, probably the only time in their lives, when cramped living in a bedsit with other people and eating noodles will seem good fun, it is likely to be the only time in their lives when they are not responsible to, or for, anyone else.

It isn't a time to be stressed, trammelled, made to follow a path dictated by someone else.

Jobs have changed, are constantly changing, way beyond our imagining - away from the things you learn in class towards the things you learn in life.

When I am looking for young people to join my team I am looking for resilience, good manners, kindness, punctuality, doggedness, bravery, a desire to get the job done. The photo at the head of this blog was the beginning of my list of qualities - none of which can be examined for.

I'm more impressed with a year of practical activity, particularly entrepreneurial activity, than I am with grades. I am most impressed with things done far from the parental sphere. 'Keeping them alive' isn't the same as doing their laundry or sorting out their parking permits.

For some kids this will be going to University or College. For some it will be trying out work in an apprenticeship, for some it will be travelling or starting their own businesses.

Last week I went to see The Dixie Chicks play in Glasgow - they performed my favourite song "Wide Open Spaces" about this very time in life.

Last year I founded The Snapdragon Foundation - a grant giving charity which gives money to UK based projects, organisations and schools working with this 14-24 age group. My hope is that it helps spark something in their brains, widens horizons, makes them buzz.

In 2015-16 we gave money to get young people to theatre camps, to devise new pieces of drama and music, we helped set up senior guiding packs, to teach teenage parents to cook.

On 18th June we have our annual fundraiser where comedian Viv Groskop will be performing her new show - it is in the McLintock Hall in Balfron and, judging from last year, it will be a fantastic night. You can get tickets HERE. I'd love to see you.


Comments: 2 (Add)

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Fiona G on May 17 2016 at 20:08

I loved reading your words, it helped remind me why I need to let my daughters seek their own path, hard as it is sometimes for both them and me! I look forward to listening to the TED talks too, a few more words of wisdom will always help. Your Foundation sounds like it is already making a difference in young peoples lives, which is tremendous - well done.

Elaine Scott on May 19 2016 at 14:52

That's brilliant well done, what a fantastic idea. My husband and I both have a theatre background, if we can help let us know