How to talk to young people

When young people are experiencing certain situations and feelings it can be really helpful to understand how to talk with them. At Speak Up Space we have put together the following guide that you may find useful.

Do’s Don’ts
Stop what you are doing and give the young person your full attention. If that’s not possible at that exact moment agree a time when you can. Don’t carry on with something else while your son/daughter is talking as this can make them feel like you don’t care. You may also misunderstand what they say.
Give the young person choices. Don’t go ahead and make decisions for the young person.
Use open questions such as:

“Maybe you could tell me a little bit about how you’re feeling at the moment?”

Don’t use ‘leading’ or ‘closed’ questions such as:

“Does that make you feel scared?”

Remain open-minded and non-judgemental. Don’t assume things or be judgemental. This will leave the young person feeling like they haven’t been listened to or heard.
Listen to and hear what the young person is actually saying. Don’t guess what the young person is going to say next or assume you know what they mean if you are unsure.
Empathise with young people and try to understand what they experiencing even if their views are different from yours. Don’t dismiss their feelings, thoughts or beliefs as this will make them feel less able or inclined to be open.
Engage with what the young person is saying and hear how it feels for them. Don’t turn the conversation around to you. For example don’t say things like, “I know how that feels”. How you feel isn’t necessarily how they will feel about the same thing.
Stay with difficult feelings as it takes a lot of courage to talk about them. Don’t change the subject or show that it is making you feel uncomfortable as the young person will find it even more difficult to talk about in the future.
Give the young person as much control over what happens next as possible. It will feel less scary for them to share what’s happening. Don’t take their control away by deciding what to do without involving them.
Be honest. If you don’t know something it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” Perhaps you could find out together? Don’t make promises that you might not be able to keep such as, “Everything is going to be ok.”
Make sure you look after yourself. If you don’t look after yourself and your feelings you won’t be able to help your children. Don’t ignore your own emotional health and well-being.