Tips for working with youth

Apr 14, 2010

By: Sherri McKeen
Builders Club Specialist

In my professional life, with Builders Club, the middle school program of Kiwanis International, I am always looking for new ways to help local volunteers.  Personally, I am a step-mother to a happy, funny, creative soon-to-be 9-year-old young lady and expecting a new edition to our family next month. So, I am interested in any tools and tips for being a better youth worker whether it is for a school or community setting or as a parent. 

Recently, while preparing for a presentation I started reading a book by Kelly Curtis, M.S., Empowering Youth.  The book is filled with both theories and hands-on tips for helping adults create a culture that values youth and teaches youth that they can make an impact on their community. 

Based on Curtis writings, there are many things we can do to make a huge impact with the youth we serve – from starting community PR campaigns to looking youth in the eyes when talking with them. Here are a few tips that you might find helpful and easy to implement.

If you consider yourself a “youth worker”, find ways to:

  • Ask youth what they think – get their feedback with planning. When your organization is making decision about youth, ask them what they think. Solicit their input on creating solutions to community issues.
  • Host events especially designed for youth and families. Consider family nights at school or a community picnic with games specifically for families.
  • Find opportunities to know and affirm youth. Teachers, consider affirming a student that is not in your class.
  • Talk to youth about their future careers, volunteer activities and hobbies.  Just expressing interest in a child will show them that you value them.
  • Display youth artwork. Find ways for local business owners to display student’s work in their windows.

Even if you don’t work with youth in a professional setting, we can all:

  • Get feedback from youth when planning events at home or in your community. If you are planning a neighborhood food drive, ask the youth in your neighborhood their ideas.
  • Parents find ways to get to know and praise your kid’s friends.
  • Know and greet youth by name. Yes, this means we need to find some way to remember all of the kids in our neighborhood’s names. You will be amazed at how much kids and adolescents appreciate when you know their name.

Some of these you can do today and others might be on your “to do” list for upcoming months but try to make a few changes so you can begin to show the youth around you that you value them. And of course, you will now be the role model for other adults within your school, neighborhood, community and your home.

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