What advice would you give to someone just starting their career with troubled young people?
Mmm. Not easy is it?!

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/alexwhite

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/alexwhite (adapted)

I was asked this recently and was surprised by my own conclusions…

My 3 top tips for doing a fab job with children and young people…

I recently spent a very enjoyable two hours with a group of first year social work students at Swansea University.
I love these sessions. I guess some of it is the freedom of being able to inform and inspire others. But I always come away feeling I gained a whole lot more than I gave out.
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The main reason I gain so much from such settings is that I find myself reflecting on my own work. I think back over cases, situations, decisions and circumstances I’ve encountered.
In the field it’s easy to get jaded and tired. The press of work can crowd out the reasons we do the work.
In a classroom full of intelligent and eager people who want to learn, it’s impossible to be jaded, I find.  In fact, as we discussed their questions, reflected on young people’s lives and the opportunities the work offers, I found myself going back to the mainstays of my own practice…

What is it that’s kept me going?…

So, here are my top 3 (at the moment!) tips for staying focussed and keeping your practice sharp:

How to teach empathy to troubled teens: No.1 (Click photo...)

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/ejwhite

1. Remember the person – this is about valuing people. It’s so easy to get caught up in the problems, the behaviour, the deadlines, the accountability, the report, the meeting… And on it goes. But our raison d’etre is people. We exist to support, guide, help and protect…people. It pays, I believe, to remind ourselves that underneath all the confusion and difficulty, all the hassle and chaos, is a person who needs our help. We forget this at our peril.

For me the great way to do this is to relate what’s happening for the client, to someone I know. I ask myself,”What if my kids were going through this?” How would they feel and what would I want done about it? This approach allows us to retain the human element, because our emotions are involved.

[callout]There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion. Carl Jung[/callout]

2. Read or die – once we leave college or finish our training it’s easy to stop reading. But whilst we are out in the “real world” practicing our craft, research, theorising and innovation marches on.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/PhotoEuphoria

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/PhotoEuphoria

New findings shed light on how people function. Systems are evaluated and recommendations for change made. The second we stop reading is the second we start to become out of date. We suffer, our practice suffers and, worst of all, our service users suffer. Read or die.

Click here to see some recommended reading – listed by subject…

Photo courtesy ©123RF/convisum

Photo courtesy ©123RF/convisum

3. Re-balance your week – You must look after yourself. Self-care is a hugely neglected area in social care. We’re the kind of people who look after others, fight their causes, advocate for their rights, offer them guidance and support… But who’s doing this for us?

Working with troubled young people can have a negative impact on us, if we don’t take steps to maintain our own well-being. Don’t wait until you hit the wall before putting your own safety net in place. You benefit and your young people will benefit too.

Your thoughts?…

Obviously, these are just my thoughts. Yours may be very different.
Please use the comments section below to share your own top 3 tips… Just click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2015