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Practice Tips for Youthworkers
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- Involve youth in meaningful work in their communities. This does not have to be limited to the traditional areas of volunteering or mentoring. Youth can also have a powerful and positive effect on community policy development. The has done just that.
- Mobile phone technology can provide many benefits for youthworkers. Send reminders, information, invitations, or just keep in touch. Visit to learn how others are using this technology
- "Positive youth development has a dual focus. First, positive youth development is about providing opportunities and positive relationships that help youth gain the skills and competencies they need to be successful. Second, this then prevents involvement in problem behavior and enhances a youth's ability to deal with life challenges and stresses" - Daniel F. Perkins
- "Profound, sustainable cultural change can take place within an organization only when the individuals.. change themselves from the inside out." - Stephen R. Covey
- Consciously think about really listening to what youth are saying to you. For some active listening hints go to Youthwork Links and Ideas' links
- Adolescence is the time of life during which youth take on a range of new roles and responsibilities as they prepare for adulthood. Through experiences, they will gain a sense of "who they are" and what they are able to do in the world. They are active participants in their own development and will go wherever their needs are met.
This is from the Standards of Quality Performance for Teen Programs developed by .
- Think about what you want your activities to accomplish. After an activity always spend some time talking about what it meant to the youth and how it fits with their lives. For some excellent ways to do this visit
- Stay aware of current events and how they are effecting youth. Conversations about what is going on in the world are important to maintining a sense of connection and can help all of us make some sense out of apparent chaos.
- Is youth experimentation with alcohol and other drugs a problem, a symptom, or a normal part of growing up? My guess is that it is a combination of all three. Listen and probe for each youth's motivation and direct your intervention according to the response. Any one response from a youthworker does not fit all young people.
- Despite our own beliefs and values, it is important to be aware of all points of view about youth and substance use. Our communication will not be credible if we do not stay up to date with the latest research and information about this topic and if we have not evaluated the reliability and validity of the research. For links to substance use and abuse information, visit .
- Youth voices can have a powerful effect in bringing about changes in society. has collected some examples of what young people have already accomplished.
- Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated when someone says they want to make a change and you provide all sorts of ideas and advice, yet the change never happens? The Stages of Change model may help you find a way out of the dilemma. The model was initially developed in work with people quitting smoking and it identifies the stages one goes through in making a behavior change. It also delineates some specific techniques that are helpful in each stage. You can find a good overview of the model at
- Take a look at the groups and committees in which you participate, both at work and in the community. Do they have meaningful youth involvement? If not, start educating your fellow members about the importance of including young people's perspectives in community decision making.
- Holidays often bring sad memories for youth who were not brought up with the "Cleavers". Respect that they may be angry, sad or depressed during these times, no matter what we try to do to make them happy. Just being available to talk about feelings and past experiences can be a great gift.
- Are your services accessible to all youth? For some ideas on working with deaf adolescents, visit
- Get ready to join the 21st century by using the internet to share your insights, questions and concerns with other youthworkers. One way to do this is to send your tips about successful ideas and practices to
- Stay open to trying new ideas and also to backing off if they just aren't working. Innovation is great, but every new idea is not right for you or the youth with whom you are working. If an idea sounds right, but you are struggling with implementing it, get some consultation from a trusted supervisor or colleague
- Programs which allow youth to experience and learn from other cultures are powerful learning aids. There are also programs for youthworkers which will expand your horizons. For more information, check out
- I've said it before and I will say it again, don't forget to laugh and have fun while working with youth. For some lighthearted entertainment, visit
- Are youth involved in decision making capacities in your project or organization? Congratulations if they are and if they are not, it's time to make some changes. Whatever your position, you can advocate for creating opportunities for youth to become members of Boards of Directors, Steering Committees or whatever governing mechanism you use. If you want more information on how to make this successful, the US National 4-H Council has developed a curriculum on Creating Youth/Adult Partnerships. For more information, check out this website
- Condoms save lives! Talk about their use every chance you get.
- Supervision and consultation are important for all youthworkers. Operating in a vacuum can lead to poor decisions and burn-out. Maintain open lines of communication with supportive peers and supervisors and also be available to provide your own honest input to coworkers.
- A great idea recently submitted to the is "Use whatever you have to eliminate racism". I would add: be aware of all the "isms" and confront them whenever they arise
- Ageism is usually seen as discrimination against the elderly, but it is also very much a force in our interactions with young people. Challenge yourself to recognize and eliminate your "youth ageism"
- Have Fun! Youthwork is often an exhausting and emotionally draining job, so remember to relax and enjoy your time with youth and your time away from them. A sense of humor and an enjoyment of play will go a long way toward avoiding burnout
- Write a letter to your elected representatives telling them about youthwork needs in your area
- Whenever you find yourself frustrated by a youth's "problems or issues", and we all fall into this at times, try reframing them into strengths. Simply renaming resistant to persistent or determined or any adjective that fits the youth can change your whole perspective
- We all get ourselves into power struggles despite our best intentions and skills. One effective way to get out of these struggles is to take a break and come back to the issue. The important thing to remember when returning to the issue is not to pick up where you left off. Instead, discuss what happened as a past event. Putting the situation in the past is a great help in clarifying what went on and in defusing the anger, both for you and the youth
- Create a web page together with a youth group or an individual youth. It's another way for you to talk with youth about who they are and what they want to present to the world. , and are three sites that make creating a web site easy even if you don't know a word of html. The best part is that they are all free
- As we enter the holiday season, it is easy to become beguiled by the media and focus our attention on "mainstream holidays". If you plan to do any holiday celebrations be sure to do all holiday celebrations and not just those of the youth with whom you are working at the time. An atmosphere which celebrates and respects all traditions is important all year round and is welcoming to everyone.