In Rialto Youth Project the commitment to building relationships with young people is at the heart of what we do. Because that process of building relationships is so central to all aspects of our work, we think it’s important to describe the quality of the relationships we try to establish with children and young people.
In youth work the relationship between the youth worker and the young person is constantly changing, adapting to new circumstances and situations. As we get to know each young person, often engaging with them from early childhood to young adulthood, there are certain essential qualities to that evolving relationship which we try to nurture and sustain…
Honesty and truthfulness are the most essential qualities which we try to establish in our relations with young people. We try to be as honest and truthful as we can, never to lie or be falsely positive.
We strive to be open minded in our relations with young people. We aim to establish open, non-judgmental relationships. At the same time, being open also means there is room for challenge in the relationship. This can work both ways. The youth worker may sometimes need to challenge the young person and sometimes the youth worker needs to be open to being challenged. Sometimes we use our experience to tease things out in an open way. It’s a relationship where difficult questions can be asked on both sides. In youth work you should not be afraid to challenge, to name the elephant in the room, but in an appropriate way.
While being open, we also place great importance on maintaining and respecting clear boundaries in our relations with young people. We have personal boundaries and so does the young person. A young person may confide in us and confidentiality must be respected. Equally, we need to be clear and transparent with young people when they disclose something that we have to report further. We try to establish and maintain boundaries, to avoid overstepping them: we are not the young person’s parent or their friend. We lay down boundaries because they provide a safe space for both young person and youth worker.
In youth work, the relationship with the young person requires give and take. It’s a relationship that works both ways. It is a collaborative relationship that evolves and changes as the person moves through childhood towards adulthood. It needs to be adaptable, to respond to changes in personal, family and community circumstances.
We foster an attitude of respectfulness towards young people. In our relations with young people we try to maintain a basic level of mutual respect for one another. We believe in genuinely respecting the young person as an autonomous human being.
The Rialto Youth Project is approachable. In our work we set out to create a safe and secure space where the young person feels they can tell us anything, where young people feel safe and listened to.
We try to establish supportive and nurturing relations with young people. We try to see beyond the difficulties a young person may have: to see their potential and support them to reach it.
We aim to establish positive relations with young people. Ideally, relations are positive and encouraging for both the youth worker and the young person.
As a youth worker, being consistent is important. It is key to establishing trust with a young person.
In youth work it is important to pick your battles. A youth worker judges when a young person needs minding and when they need to be challenged. Knowing when to push and when not to calls for balance in the relationship. Sometimes it’s best to walk away, to be willing to wait until the young person is ready for the conversation.
Youth work calls for the setting aside of personal feelings, judgements and prejudices. The youth worker needs to be aware of their own issues and limitations. Youth work is sometimes about dealing with rejection, taking a deep breadth and jumping back in.
It takes time to earn the trust of a young person.