Foster mutual respect, direct communication, learning, and cultural awareness in your relationships with youth. Engage with youth through active listening, appropriate boundaries, and holistic support.
Background and Strategies
Youth Voice needs strong foundations. Trusting relationships with adults can provide youth with the support needed to learn, lead, and thrive.
A trusting relationship with a competent and caring adult is a major factor of resilience in young people. Resilience is the ability to adapt effectively in the face of challenges and adversity (Berk, 2014). Teachers, mentors, and even peers who acknowledge effort, encourage skill development, and provide the support and means to do so, can contribute to lasting resilience in our youth (Benson, et al, 2006; Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Masten & Reed, 2002; Tiet, Huizinga & Byrnes, 2010).
These kinds of relationships take work. Listening to youth share their needs, interests, and life experiences without judgment is a critical part of building trust. When youth and adults engage in this kind of meaningful, direct communication, it is also important to maintain healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries help to foster an authentic, mutually respectful relationship and position adults to better support youth.
When adults practice cultural awareness in their relationships with youth, youth are better able to engage in self-exploration and show up as their whole selves. Adults engaging in self education outside of youth programs can better understand issues different youth face and shift their own internalized ideas that can harm youth.
Best Practices in Action
Angela Wiley and Norah of the Carnegie Library of Pittsbugh – Squirrel Hill TeenSpace tell the story of their own trusting relationship and give related advice to educators.