Stefania Andreoli: «By putting themselves in the shoes of others, young people can understand the world»

from Manuela Croci

“No teenager learns from an adult who wants to teach him something.” Stefania Andreoli says that she invented a game to enable young people to understand others (and discover themselves)

«Educating affectivity is necessary, not just important. None of us can ignore the experience of being in contact with our emotions and feelings: they are a kit that defines us, that gives tone and color to our lives, diverts its course, makes us known in the encounter with ourselves and with others since we are very small and throughout the course of our existence. Lacking an emotional education is equivalent to being catapulted into relationships without a legend that helps us give meaning to our individual and collective experiences”. Hence the meeting with Stefania Andreoli, psychotherapist, writer (the latest book I do for me, Rizzoli, has become a best seller) and now author of “Sei d’accorno?” (Erikson), a game to get to know each other better.

Play to learn, why?

«The pedagogical value of the ludic experience is undisputed, we have always known it: it is one of the early learning methods from very early childhood. However, with the very young, using the game becomes something more: as a patient of mine once told me, “no teenager learns from an adult who wants to teach him something”. It is evidently true, but what about the fact that it is one of the tasks of educators, of adults, precisely, to educate? Do you agree? thus becomes an opportunity: an adult has thought of something for pre-adolescents and teenagers, but does not intend to teach them any lessons. The invitation is to have fun».

Is it an effective model for adults too?

«In general, we don’t stop learning through play even when we grow up: only tastes and methods change. This is the reason why many parents regret not knowing how to play with their young children: they are obviously inclined to different challenges and rules, they don’t have fun for the same things. In the case of Do you agree?, although the idea is specifically dedicated to pre-adolescents and adolescents, I am rather convinced that even the educators themselves (parents and teachers, but not only) could derive a satisfying experience from it. Also of personal training and, why not, perhaps of preparation to be spent in the direction of educating the young people for whom they are responsible”.

As parents or educators, how do we understand when our kids have difficulty relating to others? Are there any alarm bells?

«The pandemic has somewhat blown up the indicators that were relied on in the past, when isolation and lack of sociality could rightfully alarm families: today, many children sit on sofas, rather than on walls. In general, adolescence is an age in which the group becomes a cross and a delight, a merciless judge or a second family, a threatening place or a port of salvation. In this sense, it could be normal if a boy or a girl went through events with alternating fortunes with the others. It makes sense to worry when it seems to us that our child continues to relate too well with us adults: it could be the sign of an incompetence to do so with peers ».

Is there an age when we can tell if our children will struggle to form relationships with peers?

«The evolutionary phase of life, by definition, is dynamic: things change, today we are not who we will be and who we have been. An introverted child in kindergarten could blossom in primary school thanks to a nice class group led by smart teachers, and then maybe intimidate again with puberty body changes: we don’t write the ending at the table, or we risk getting between us son, his becoming, and the chances both fortunate and unfortunate that make up a life».

How important is it – as in the game – to put yourself in the shoes of others?

«Warning: putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is an exercise that needs to be specified. Except for the extraordinarily talented actors – maybe even a bit fragmented and chameleonic – in general we’re not all that capable of doing it: I am me. You are you. I will never really wear your skin and even when I try, I will basically be doing nothing but imagining that I am someone else, in the shoes of myself. All this to say that the true value to be put in place for satisfying relationships and relationships is not so much to become someone else: the ultimate goal is to become oneself and cultivate, inside, the space for otherness and pluralism. Do you agree? has, in its own small way, the ambition to participate in this ultimate goal».

Adolescents are very clear-cut, inviting them to put themselves in another person’s shoes sometimes triggers a thought in them: this is how I distort myself. How to make people understand that instead opening up to others, understanding their thoughts and attitudes different from one’s own means enriching oneself and not losing something of oneself?

«I wouldn’t be so sure that contemporary adolescents are so closed and perched. It is certainly true that at their age, leaving room for the Other risks being an attack on an identity that has not yet been achieved, but it seems to me equally true that today’s kids are very spongy and permeable, willing to let themselves be crossed and keep boundaries fluid. For them, the game will not be a challenge to go out of themselves, but to enter it».

Empathy has been at the center of many speeches in the months of the pandemic: has detachment from peers, school and sports or recreational activities created scars on our children’s ability to connect with peers?

“Studies have shown the impacts on children under 3: they didn’t learn to read emotions properly, because their faces were covered. We will talk again about these effects in about ten years. Those who had already grown up, on the other hand, have shown that they have taught us a lesson in terms of empathy: let’s not forget that teenagers of the Covid era were the segment of the population that was most respectful of the limitations. If we want to draw something good from the crisis, let’s acknowledge it”.

November 22, 2022 (change November 22, 2022 | 08:03)

Stefania Andreoli: «By putting themselves in the shoes of others, young people can understand the world»