Creating a Safe Environment to Encourage Communication
As a foundation for forming a relationship with adolescents in your program, ensure that you have privacy and assure the adolescent of confidentiality. Tell the adolescent what to expect, what kinds of things you will be asking and doing, and the reasons why. Establishing rapport, providing clear boundaries, and allowing the adolescent control to make autonomous decisions, helps build trust with adolescents and sets a positive environment for sharing. Following are some tips, techniques, and strategies to encourage communication and build rapport with adolescents in your program.
Be an “active listener.”
This sends the message that you are genuinely interested and respect what they have to say. Give the adolescent your full attention and comment on what you think you heard. If you did not understand what was said, ask for clarification. Ask open ended questions that do not convey judgment.
Sample Open Ended Questions:
“Would you like to share more about that?”
“What do you think?”
“That seems very important to you. Tell me more about that.”
Demonstrate an understanding of the adolescent’s culture.
Be sensitive to cultural values and beliefs when talking to adolescents and their families. It is important for staff to be knowledgeable about the different cultural and ethnic groups they serve.
Be positive and have an upbeat tone of voice.
No one likes to listen to someone who is grumpy; smile. Show enthusiasm and be positive when having conversations with adolescents. Make eye contact. It lets the teen know you are approachable.
Be clear and detailed when giving instructions or providing information.
Writing down instructions and going over them will make sure you have given correct instructions and the teen will be more likely to remember. When providing information, use plain language, not jargon, and focus on the immediate benefits of the adolescents’ actions.
Offer guidance that addresses the adolescents’ problem, behavior, or concern.
Do not criticize for wrong or bad behavior; instead develop an action plan to help the teen change the behavior. Ask the teen for input. Also, talk to the teen about strategies they can use in difficult situations. Discuss hypothetical scenarios such as what he/she can do if they are in a group and someone offers them drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes; they are pressured to have sex; or offered a ride by someone who has been drinking or using drugs. Helping the adolescent come up with a plan before they get into a situation will improve their chances for making better decisions; and hopefully avoid getting into dangerous situations.
Promote self-esteem and self-respect.
Teens with positive self-worth are less likely to be influenced by negative peer pressures. As a provider, look for opportunities where you can support the adolescent. Try affirming and acknowledging good behavioral intentions and helping adolescents begin problem-solving in areas where behavior is risky.
<< PreviousNext >>