Building Trust & Communication with Young People

When you are using counselling or CBT you must make sure that you are creating the best possible environment and circumstances for young people. In my therapy clinic, when I meet families for the first time, they might talk about different sorts of challenges that they’re having with the young person in their life. Sometimes it’s related to their behaviour or attitude or their commitment to studying. I’ve noticed over the years is that it’s very easy to start pointing the finger at the different influences that the young person has in their life, that could be, contributing to some of the bad decisions that they might be making perhaps the school is not the best possible school for them or they’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. Maybe they’ve just got a bad attitude or a lack of commitment towards the family.

There are all sorts of things that can contribute towards a young person state of mind and the quality of their lifestyle that they are choosing to lead. I’ve also met both parents and professionals who have done their absolute best to change those circumstances surrounding that young person in order to get them onto the right track. I’ve met parents who have sent their children to boarding school in order to see if that changes them or improves their confidence. I’ve met teachers who have put children on hour-long detentions to see if that changes them. I have met parents who have grounded their children for a month, and I’ve met teachers who have prevented a young person from sitting with another young person who they believe is a bad influence upon them. I’m going to say something a little bit controversial now so hold onto your pants! There typically is one other common denominator in that young person’s life which could be influencing the way in which they are feeling reacting and behaving and that one common denominator is you.

I’m not saying that you’re to blame for how this young person is showing up in the world at the moment but perhaps there is something about the way in which you interact with them that kind of keeps them in the place that we don’t really want them to be in. For example, some young people know when they are making decisions that are not going to serve them very well or that are risk-taking types of behaviours sometimes this is a cry for help – a request for therapy even. They very often know when they’re doing that and most young people also go through a phase of acting out of rebellion which means the more that you try and push them in one direction, the more they’re going to push back and go in a completely opposite direction to the one you want them to go in. Sometimes we end up fighting fire with fire because instead of being creative about how we mould and sculpt that young person’s behaviour changes are just creating conflict and pushing back up against them all of the time.

Young people are committed, they are persistent and consistent. If you want to make things change sometimes you have to look at getting a little bit more creative, a bit bolder in the decisions that you make so that you can start to shake up the system and devote some different responses from them. Those different sorts of responses might mean that you need to be firmer, but those different sorts of responses might also mean that you need to relax. I’ve spoken with parents who didn’t get their kids out of bed and had spent years and years trying to get their child up in the morning, but we’re not brave enough to go in there with a bucket of cold water to wake them up in the mornings. sometimes you need to shake the system up in that way! Counselling young people isn’t always about being warm and fluffy. Sometimes we need to jolt them too.

However, equally, I’ve met parents who have been so committed to laying down the law and the rules, but their young person has reacted badly to it. In those sorts of cases, it’s not about being more dramatic. It’s actually about being more relaxed. Think about it – if you have someone who always reacts in a predictable way towards you then in order to change things either you or they are going to have to do something different. You’re the one who’s reading this article so you’re the one who has the knowledge and therefore has the ability to take responsibility for changing things. CBT and NLP therapies can really help when it comes to thinking in new ways.

If your reaction when your young person says ‘I’m going out tonight’ is

“If you can show me that you’ve done your revision, then we can talk about you going out and what time you’re coming home again afterwards.”

If that’s different to the response that they used to have from you then it’s going to make something different happen in them. It might not give you the desired results straight away. It means that you need to persist a little bit and if it’s still not working change it and do something else instead.

Now I hear from both adults and young people “I’ve tried everything” – Listen no one’s tried everything! There are too many different options available to us in the universe for you to have tried everything. It may be true that you’ve tried everything that you can think of but everything you can think of is probably significantly less than everything that’s available to you. When it comes to different ideas maybe you would benefit from talking to someone else and brainstorming some other ways of doing things. Sometimes we get so stuck in our heads and stuck in with what we’re doing that we can’t come up with additional ideas but when you start to speak to someone else about it, they’ll give you some input from a completely different perspective and you’ll find that some new ideas start to come to the fore.

My challenge for you this month is to avoid blame and begin working on building trust or doing things in a different way. One final note, if you haven’t already purchased the book ‘stopping and grow confidence’ from NLP4Kids then I strongly suggest for you to get your hands on the book. The link can be found here:

This book isn’t just useful for parents or professionals who have a young person in their lives struggling with anxiety. I actually had plenty of adults come to me and tell me this book has been extremely helpful for them and their anxiety too. But most importantly, there are tips in here around how to develop confidence and self-esteem and there is a whole chapter that includes how to improve your communication with young people.


By Gemma Bailey

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