Kids are a joy – most of the time. If you’re interested in working with youth, you need to truly believe that and have a lot of patience you can pull from, even when you’re tired and not feeling great — especially in the middle of the current crises we’re having.
But you can’t just walk into a school and request a job – there are important skills to have when working with youth, read about three of them below.
1. Their Long-Term Consequences Brain Isn’t Fully Developed
The part of your brain that understands the long-term consequences of actions, the prefrontal cortex, doesn’t fully develop until 25. That’s the part of your brain that’s responsible for not acting on impulses, for planning, and for recognizing peer pressure. If you already work with youth, you’ve likely been frustrated with them for not having those particular skills – it seems like common sense. But essentially, that’s like getting frustrated with a four-year-old when they don’t understand 5th-grade material – their brains are physically unable to do that yet.
Understanding that your brain can do things that theirs can’t yet and having patience in these arenas is essential for not burning out when working with at risk youth. That’s not to say you can’t teach them some strategies for being better at controlling impulses and planning ahead – but don’t expect them to be on your level. That will just frustrate both of you!
2. Take Mandatory Reporting Seriously
Most people who work with children are mandatory reporters. This means if you suspect any sort of abuse, you have to report it to the appropriate parties. In cases where there were signs and children were around mandatory reporters, those reporters said they didn’t trust their instincts or think something was a “big deal”. While it’s uncomfortable and takes time to report something to the authorities, you could save a life — especially when working with at-risk youth.
If you’re wrong, then there’s no harm done – all reporting is done anonymously. Not only could you get a child out of an abusive situation, saving them at the current time, but your vigilance could also help them get the psychological help they need to deal with the abuse, reducing their chances of being an abuser in the future and setting them up for success.
3. Do a Youth Specific Training
There are a lot of do’s and don’ts when working with kids – especially with how hyperaware parents are these days. Having an official course, like a certificate iv in youth work, will help you know exactly what to do in precarious situations. It will also make you more hire-able and parents will trust you around their children more.
Working With Youth
If you’re pursuing a career that works with kids, you need to be passionate about it. They have a lot of energy and it’s easy to get burnt out if your motivations for working with youth aren’t strong and based in wanting to help them.
The good news is, it takes relatively little to make a positive difference in a child’s life – for more information about that learn about secure and insecure attachments. We know you love learning, or you wouldn’t be here on this blog! Bookmark us to help keep your senses sharp.