If the teenager in your life is looking for inspiration, he could do worse than take a look at Tony Griffin. Tony traveled every week from college to Canada to be part of Clare’s hurling team. He was an All Star. He cycled across Canada to raise more than $ 1 million for cancer care and services. He publishes his autobiography. He suffered from depression and recovered.
Perhaps most tellingly, he’s spent the guts of a decade working with and listening to teenagers. He took advantage of that experience, he told Ray D’Arcy on Wednesday, and poured it into a book, The Teenager’s Book of Life.
Tony was inspired by the late Jim Stynes’ work with young people through his Reach Foundation in Australia to launch his Soar Foundation in Ireland. Reach’s approach was unique, Tony said:
“He didn’t wait for the problems to appear, he said to equip these kids with the tools to really navigate and have a great life. And that’s what Reach did and that’s what Soar is doing.”
The book was not supposed to arrive. In fact, Tony was on the right track to write a completely different book. But, one evening, while driving to try to put his little boy to sleep, a friend of his asked him for a quote for teenagers.
And, he told Ray, he hates being asked that question, because teens, he says, have enough adults telling them what to do and talking to them. But then he remembered a quote he thought was perfect and used it at the start of his book:
“The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself, everyone is secondary.”
Nine weeks later, Tony had written The Teenager’s Book of Life. It’s written for teenagers and Tony has encountered so many of them in schools for so many years that his understanding of Irish adolescence must be pretty good.
He told Ray about a girl at a school in the Midlands where he was leading a workshop. Her friend had committed suicide * and she wanted the class to talk about him because she said adults don’t want them to talk about him.
“I said, ‘Why do you think adults don’t want to talk about this? And she said – I’ll never forget her – ‘Because they’re scared.’ ”
Tony is the first to recognize that it’s hard to talk to teens, and it’s hard for teens to talk to their parents. He believes that his book is a gateway for teenagers who may not necessarily know how to talk to adults. And life with social media is a huge complication for today’s teens:
“When you listen to 40,000 to 50,000 young people talking very honestly, you learn a lot. I did. And one of the things is they compare so much to what they see online. think it’s real life. ”
Something that surprises Tony is that parents read their teenager’s book and really take it into account, then discuss it with their child:
“It becomes something that ties the two together. You know, they’re usually on different levels, but for the moment when they’re discussing fear or death or why parents are idiots, they’re on the same level and they have a conversation. ”
In a world where so many teens stop talking to their parents, this is something so simple on the surface, but so important.
You can hear Ray’s full conversation with Tony Griffin going here.
The Teenager’s Book of Life by Tony Griffin is published by SoulPlace Publishing.