Young people have a strong desire to be understood and appreciated for who they are, and this desire is only intensified when they have lived a difficult and confusing life. It's amazing how powerful this need is for troubled kids, and how enduring, and yet how rarely it is acted upon. Helping teens to write when they are on the streets, in jail, or in other ways leading difficult lives is essentially a process of removing obstacles to self-expression.
Sometimes a person's language abilities are an obstacle, possibly because a school career has been a failure because of distractions at home. But the biggest obstacles to self-expression are relational, the product of lives of intense disappointment and betrayal:
- Distressed young people have no experience with being valued for what they have to say.
- Distressed young people are distrustful because they don't feel cared about or safe.
At Pongo Publishing, we believe that listening is the most important thing we do. Listening is the most basic and powerful tool for teaching and healing, and it is a component of "Accepting Self-Expression," the first of two sequential goals in our writing program. The second goal is to provide structured, relevant writing formats. We call this second goal "Jumpstarting Creativity."