Effective communication is vital when dealing with children and young people, in particular within the working environment, as it helps establish and maintain clear boundaries for the adolescents who are being dealt with. For example; if a young person is corrected on a behaviour that is negative, such as swearing, they need to see that staff follow the same rule, and that staff lead by example. Otherwise, they will see this as a contradiction of rules and will therefore lead to resentment and double standards. On the same note, effective communication is necessary when dealing with adults in the work environment, as it ensures consistency throughout the staff team. For example, if a supporting member of staff has been called to deal with a situation involving a young person, and the lead member of staff is unaware, it can lead to a heightened situation where the lead member of staff is unsupported, and if there has been ineffective communication, this situation can lead to resentment between colleagues. A way of preventing this happening is for the support staff to ensure the lead member of staff is aware of what has occurred. 1.2
It is important that firm boundaries and clear relationships are established when working with children, young people and adults. The main principles are effective communication, being clear with instructions, being respectful, being sensitive and also considerate. It is also important to maintain a sense of humour, so that the working environment is not too intense, as this can make people uncomfortable. It ensures that all parties involved are able to ascertain what is expected of them. If others are comfortable in our company, they are more likely to communicate effectively. However, if there is mistrust, they are less likely to confide and important issues are less likely to come to the surface. For example, a young person with an abusive parent is less likely to talk to a member of staff if that staff is inconsistent and the young person is not sure where they stand with them. Establishing trusting relationships, particularly with young people, is very important. However, a situation where this confidentiality has to be breached includes Child Protection issues or situations where a child may be physically or mentally harmed. If this arises, the first port of call will be that member of staff informing the Child Protection Officer, and documenting what the child has said. It is important to quote the language the child has used.
We communicate with others in many different ways, i.e. gestures, eye contact, body language, sartorially and of course the spoken word. How attentive you are during conversations and how quickly you reply to an email or phone call are unspoken forms of communication and can be misread, not replying by a given deadline could be deemed as disrespectful or unimportant to you. It is important to remain aware of peoples’ backgrounds, for example, different religions and cultures to ensure that no offense is caused, direct eye contact during conversation can be deemed as impolite in some cultures, while others may expect eye contact from you and think you disrespectful if you do not engage with them. In the work environment you adapt your behaviour and language accordingly, whilst attending a meeting with other professionals you will have to conduct yourself in a professional manner and use formal language, whilst at other times, such as breaks and after work, you could be relaxed and informal.
The skills needed to communicate with children and young people are: Finding opportunities to speak – it is important that people are given sufficient opportunities to talk. This could involve a mini-mentoring or any free time that staff have able to spend with that young person. Ensuring eye contact is given – if a child is talking and staff is...