Today, we are catching up with Alexandra Bravo Schroth from Peru, a Youth Forum 2021 participant, and avid supporter of helping children grow safe and people in her community to thrive. As an educational psychologist, she previously shared her story of passion and perseverance in finding ways to help individuals and families in her community.
Alexandra continues to be active in substance use prevention in working with children, youth and families. She has been working with older adults to promote their well-being and relationships with their families, especially with their grandchildren, through UNODC’s Listen First materials. Alexandra reminded us, “As I always say, Listen First promotes universal human needs and it is perfect for all ages.” She’s also been particularly busy working as a research assistant and further pursuing clinical psychology, on top of her on-going and new projects of working with families.
Thanks for this catch-up Alexandra, and great to see you excel in so many areas! And it’s great to see that the Listen First materials have been useful for you in your work. For readers that are interested, but also unsure of how to use them, could you share how they were used in your work with families?
The Listen First materials have been incredibly useful for me because they address fundamental human needs, and help both adults and children understand the importance of connection, as well as cultivate and nurture virtues. As for how I use these materials, it's difficult to pinpoint because I try to incorporate them into my daily interactions with others, leading by example, demonstrating empathy, gratitude, and respect towards everyone I interact with.
I believe that Listen First applies to every person, regardless of age or background. For example, in my work with prevention among older adults, alongside my colleague Paula Robles, we have found that the Listen First videos are excellent conversation starters that prompt people to share their personal experiences. They are also useful in helping older adults understand the science of caring for themselves and others, which leads them to spread the message to their families and peers.
Could you elaborate your thoughts on Listen First being applicable to a wider population beyond children?
In our experience, we found that some people forget that older adults also require affection, time with their families, play, patience, physical activities, and opportunities to stay busy. Some may feel lonely due to their distance from family members, while others may feel exhausted from providing care. That's why the Listen First approach has been such a valuable tool for us, it has helped people connect with their families, especially their grandchildren, while also enabling them to enjoy their daily activities.
When it comes to my work with families and children, the Listen First materials are an invaluable resource that guides everything I do. These materials not only help adults understand the needs of children and how to respond in different situations, but they also encourage self-reflection and self-regulation to improve interactions with kids.
For children, the Listen First videos are both entertaining and educational. They help me teach valuable skills such as decision-making, stress management, and social relationships, helping kids become more resilient and confident in navigating the world around them. Overall, I believe that Listen First is a crucial tool in building strong, positive relationships. By prioritising empathy, understanding, and open communication, we can create a safe and nurturing environment that fosters growth and development for everyone involved regardless of age.
Are there any challenges that you face as a young educational psychologist on supporting substance-use prevention and/or children's development, and how can the materials help?
In our society, there can be a lot of stigma around asking for help. We are often taught that adults should be self-sufficient and that we should raise our children to be independent as well. However, Listen First challenges these ideas and emphasises the importance of families and communities in promoting growth and resilience. By highlighting the role of connection and support, the materials help people understand that "prevention" is really about care, nurturing, empathy, and love, and that every person needs these things.One of the ways that Listen First helps addressing these challenges is by promoting open and honest communication. The materials help people feel more comfortable sharing their experiences, asking for help, trying new approaches and supporting one another. Additionally, the materials are designed to be friendly and accessible, making them easy to use and understand for people of all backgrounds and ages. Overall, the Listen First materials provide a valuable framework for promoting mental health and well-being in individuals and communities.
Any words of encouragement for other young professionals working in a similar field?
Your work matters! Your work as a young professional is incredibly important and can have a significant impact on the lives of those around you. While it's natural to feel like you don't have all the knowledge or experience, remember that every action you take can make a difference.Don't underestimate the value of your efforts. Even helping just one person can create a butterfly effect of positive change. So, keep your spirit, stay curious, and maintain your desire to make a difference in the world.
Remember that your work is about making a meaningful contribution to the lives of those you interact with. Take the time to listen, understand, and empathise with the people you work with and those you seek to help. I am sure that you will be able to create deeper and more authentic connections that will allow you to make a greater impact. Please don't be discouraged by your own self-doubt or the challenges you face. Remember, even the smallest act of kindness or support can lead to a positive and long-lasting impact on someone's life.
Where do you see yourself in the next couple of months?
In a couple of months, I picture myself presenting my thesis on the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. I also can see myself working with families to help them improve their communication and bond while having fun together and I see myself learning a lot in the process. And in a more personal note, I see myself enjoying time with my family.
Dear Alexandra, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us, and it is a great pleasure to witness, as you’ve mentioned, the flutter of your butterfly wings. Thank you for staying curious, actively listening, and empathising with those in your world and beyond.