Youth empowerment starts with “you”


How can we reimagine youth empowerment to break the cycles of dysfunction caused by trauma?

Young people, for the most part, are collectively seen as a vulnerable group. Many young adults are referred to as “youth at risk”.

The term youth is difficult to define. According to the United Nations,1 youth is the period of transition from the dependence of childhood to the independence of adulthood. There is no consensus as to which age group represents this period. YouthPolicy.org2 defines youth than those under 25 and classifies them into 3 stages: early adolescence (under 14), mid-adolescence (15 to 17), and late adolescence and early adulthood ( 18 to 24 years old). Individuals are therefore considered young when they are between 14 and 25 years old.

Young people do not live in a vacuum, and their problems should not be considered or dealt with in isolation from larger family and societal contexts. Most human suffering occurs because of rifts in interpersonal relationships, and most human healing occurs when rifts are healed through the healing of relationships. It’s not an easy task, but to change the current status quo of family dysfunction and human disconnection, it’s important that young people are seen as part of the solution, not just part of the problem.

What does ‘Youth Empowerment Starts with You’ mean? This means that you, me and all of us – parents, teachers, caregivers and all those charged with the welfare of these young souls – have a moral responsibility that we must take very seriously. We have to bend down and look within because the solution is not one size fits all, and it is not a blueprint or a toolkit. The solution is all of us. It takes the whole village to take care of its youth.

To empower young people, we must empower all circles of support around them – their family, peers, school, place of worship, doctor’s office and beyond – and we must respect and celebrate community and cultural dynamics. unique that are dear to them.

Under the umbrella of Untangled, a movement I founded in 2011 to break the cycles of dysfunction caused by trauma, I propose that youth empowerment be reimagined through:

  • When You refers to youth: ensure young people talk about what they need, express their feelings in safe and healthy ways, and use the trusted adults in their lives for support
  • When You refers to the family: lay the foundation for a safe home by opening channels of communication and building bridges of trust, and refusing to see family dysfunction as the norm, because there is nothing normal about family breakdown
  • When You refers to the school: teachers serving as role models for their students and advocating for whatever they need to gain the trust of their students, because teachers are like second parents
  • When You refers to the health care provider: normalize discussions about the mental health and emotional well-being of youth and family and pay attention to the needs and limitations of the caregiver, as burnout is a real threat to the caregiver field
  • When You means the place of worship: to ensure that religion, faith and spirituality serve as tools to heal young people and their families, and to ensure that religious leaders are not the reason young people flee the house of God
  • When You refers to the larger context: fostering safe and healthy relationships with peers and providing tools and skills for young people who engage in risky and self-destructive habits and behaviors, as peers are very important as anchors of identity and networks of support for this age group

To learn more about Untangled and my youth empowerment initiative, visit my website:

Dr Redais a psychiatrist in Colorado He is the author of Untangled: breaking the cycle andThe Wounded Healer: The Pain and Joy of Caregiving.


1. Definition of youth. The United Nations. Accessed October 17, 2022.

2. Fact Sheet on the Definition of Youth — United States. Accessed October 17, 2022.


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