Friday, May 6, 2016

Creating Connections With Today's Youth

  1. Be open - Being open is extremely important to building healthy student to mentor relationships, and giving the young person a safe place where they can really discuss their struggles is important. Make sure to make it clear to the student that you're providing them with a no judgment zone, and that you can be trusted as an adult to have their best interests in mind. Unless they express a desire to do harm to themselves or others, allow them to talk out the tough issues with you as you build a strong foundation of trust.

  2. Provide relevant advice - As an adult, it's possible that you've experienced just what they're experiencing now, and that you have some useful information when it comes to what to do next. Providing advice to students who come to you for help is a great way to build a healthy relationship, but it's important to do so as an equal, and not as a person who may be speaking down to them and their concerns.

  3. Treat them equally - If there is one thing that many young people despise, it's being treated childishly, and talking to or treating today's youth in a mature manner can do a great deal in building respect. When providing advice, or an ear to talk to, it's important that you respect the student just as you would wish to be respected, and to speak to them in a mature manner appropriate for their particular age group.

  4. Go to them - In many cases, a student or young person may not feel comfortable initiating a relationship, which is why it's important for the adult to extend the line of communication. Engaging the young person or simply allowing them to know that you have a willing ear should they need someone to listen is a great way to offer the opportunity for a mentor type relationship.

  5. Appropriate Self-Disclosure- This is one of the many keys to connecting with disengaged students and youth. With more than 15 years of working with at-risk youth, I've learned that it's important to let them know that we experience or have experienced many of the things that they are going through. Loss, confusion, and anger, etc. However, it is not enough to simple say, "I've also been angry." or "I've also lost a loved one." When sharing bits and pieces of your life that you believe can change the belief of the young person you are working with, you must be specific. "I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I remember losing my uncle when I was 16. I never forget him and what he meant to me." or "I can remember getting angry at my mother when I was 16 and saying something inappropriate. I didn't sit down for a week!" Not only will some of your stories get a laugh, they will be memorable and will also let the student know that we all at some point have been where they are.

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