In order to ensure that children are expressing their thoughts and feelings in a healthy manner, it’s important to practice good communication skills. Here are a few tips on how child and youth workers can communicate effectively with children and young adults.
Give Them Your Full Attention
Communication, more or less, is how we interact with not only other people, but ourselves as well. Children, despite the fact that they may not be fluent in language or conversation, are still people with thoughts, emotions, and perspectives. If you want to become a child and youth worker, it’s important to understand that when a child is attempting to communicate an idea or thought, they might not be at the right developmental or maturity level to express themselves, and interacting with an authority figure – usually an adult – teaches them how to behave and respond in social situations.
Making the effort to demonstrate that you’re paying attention teaches the child that they should also do the same thing when speaking to others. Paying attention to someone when they’re speaking provides them the opportunity to be cognitively engaged in the subject, and encourages future participation.
Be an Active Listener
When a child tells a story, it is often a way that they can review and determine how they should react to that experience based on how you, as the adult, react. Children, at any age before adulthood, are still learning vital lessons in behaviour and expression, and whether or not they admit to it, look to adults for structure and guidance. It can be difficult to show genuine interest or listen actively, but it’s important to demonstrate or reaffirm that you are listening and not simply ignoring or dismissing the conversation.
Actively listening involves patience as well as compassion. Interrupting or dismissing a child when they try to share a story or experience discourages them from sharing in the future. To show that you are engaging with what the child is saying, try to make eye contact and rephrase and repeat what the child has said to confirm or clarify their idea. Be objective, and prompt the child to explain how they feel about what they are trying to say.
Understanding is Key if You Want to Become a Child and Youth Worker
Communication, at its most basic level, is about understanding and being understood. Miscommunication is one of the greatest obstacles in any conversation, and making sure that you and the child are communicating clearly is a significant component of child and youth care worker training.
It’s important to keep an open mind, and think of their perspective. Children don’t have the life experience of a fully grown adult, and they are still learning how they fit into the world. You may have to get on their level, literally and figuratively. Try to be objective, and don’t condescend or talk down to a child. In other words, treat them as you would like to be treated. Additionally, because children seek positive attention, use words of encouragement or praise so that they feel they are being appreciated.
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