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10 Ways Providing Support to Young People Is a Gift

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Providing support to young people is what youth workers do. And highly effective youth workers know that they receive so much in return. When we understand the positive impact it has on us personally, we realize that we’ve been handed a gift of our lifetime.

It is clear, all of us need support from the time we are born until the end of our days. The only difference is the level of support we need. For example, if we grew up in a toxic stress environment, we’d likely need a lot more support than our peers who did not.

Here is the beautiful thing about providing support to young people, it helps us grow personally. Growth boosts self-awareness. And our improved self-awareness makes us better at providing support. And that leads to more self-awareness so the cycle continues and gets stronger.

The young people you support are always going to make you better. Every interaction you have with them will show how you can do better.

How giving support to young people makes you better

  1. Your best version of you will emerge: Young people simply won’t allow you to avoid self-exploration. By default, you’ll become a better version of yourself.
  2. You can’t help but grow: You can’t just stick with only what you know. Every day, young people will force you out of your comfort zone, making you grow as a person.
  3. You will learn: Youth work is more than teaching; young people expect you to learn from them. Therefore, they’ll expand your self-knowledge in multiple ways.
  4. You’ll become more authentic: Young people will not let you fake it. So, you simply must say what you mean and mean what you say. If you don’t, you will be told so.
  5. You’ll improve self-awareness: Young people will teach you your strengths and weaknesses. So there is no hiding from them in youth work, you’re on full display.
  6. Your perspective will improve: Working with young people helps you consider your situation in relationship to theirs. Therefore, you’ll gain an understanding of your reference point.
  7. You’ll become trustable: If you make a mistake with a young person, it will take time to build back trust. Young people will place trust in you and if you violate it, they’ll make sure you know it.
  8. You’ll become trustworthy: Young people will teach you how to be reliable in your support. Therefore, when you slip in consistency, they’ll ensure you regain your commitment.
  9. You will learn about yourself: You’ll learn what makes you tick and how you like to operate. By providing support to young people, you’ll know your style for navigating life.
  10. You’ll become strong: Young people rightfully expect 100% from you. Your emotional and social muscles will strengthen, and you’ll have the endurance needed to be a strong individual.

Maximize the gift of youth work

No one can tell you what to say or how to act when supporting young people. It’s up to you to lean into your life lessons. Because when you do, you’ll become a better human being for all the world to enjoy.

Trust your instinct. YIPA offers a great training called, “Improvisation is a Youth Work Superpower!” It is free to YIPA members and I encourage you to watch it. Learn how to grow confidence in your interactions as you provide support to young people.

Paul Meunier is the executive director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!