I was recently asked to be the program manager over the young adult house where I facilitate groups and provide individual therapy. I informed the staff this was a position I would have to consider. This “promotion” could be seen as a dual relationship; not to mention, I am quite happy with my current role. It fits in with my other professional obligations and life goals. However, for those who work with youth and are looking to climb the ladder, here are some things to consider.
- Introduce yourself and learn names – Do your best to remember and use their name. It’s an immediate sign of self-care and regard if you remember a guest’s name.
- Keep it light at first – Ask about interests or hobbies, and try to find a common interest (The youth and I bond over cooking). Just as you wouldn’t ask a stranger a personal question, do not ask a youth about personal aspects of their life. Believe me, in time they will tell you how they became homeless or a foster child.
- Be honest- like everyone youth appreciate sincerity and are good at picking up on bullshit. Let them know when a topic makes you uncomfortable and be okay when they tell you the same. I also believe if you don’t know the answer to something say “I don’t know the answer but I will find out, and acknowledge mistakes. The youth will respect and appreciate this in the long run.
Enforcing program rules
- Know the rules – Different programs have different rules, and don’t assume because you worked in one social service agency that you know them all. You can’t enforce a rule if you don’t know what it is.
- Be able to explain the rules- Whenever you enforce a rule, it always helpful to be ready with an explanation “Play fighting is not appropriate here because others feel unsafe”
- Know the guests – “Be aware of how youth may react to rule enforcement. Many youth have a natural adversity to authority and will let you know, especially if they don’t know you. Always use non-confrontational language “Would you be willing to” or if you need to be more assertive, “I need you to …” rather than “You need to.” Asking politely is an empowering way to remind a youth to treat others how they want to be treated.
- Be yourself- don’t feel you have to adjust your personality to interact with the youth.