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Unique Qualities of Youth Workers that Really Make a Difference

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The unique qualities each youth worker brings to young people form a dynamic mosaic. This mosaic is crafted with elements of the youth worker’s creative and technical skills. And it requires them to engage both their heart and their minds.

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    How unique qualities make a difference

    I believe there are three unique qualities that are the cornerstones of building a trusting relationship with young people. These qualities, if cultivated consistently, will help young people trust you and be open to your guidance. Thus, you will be able to effectively provide the support they need in their lives.

    Three unique qualities

    1. Presence

    Your presence is the most valuable thing you can give to young people. They long to be seen and accepted for exactly who they are. This is only possible when you slow down and become present with them in the moment you are sharing together.

    Your loving presence to young people is sacred. You can truly focus on the things the young person is sharing with you even if the moment is brief. Our world is filled with so much distraction and multitasking. So, the quality of the attention you give to young people is crucial.

    2. Emotional Attunement

    When you are fully present with a young person, you become attuned to their emotions. You will intuit what they could be feeling and have deep empathy for them. Thus, you become mindful of what the young person needs from you in that moment. You would know whether to quietly listen or to speak words of comfort. And whether you should encourage and cheer them on in their endeavors or to gently guide or redirect them.

    3. Pure Intention

    In your relationships with young people, your intentions matter just as much as your actions. Young people are very sensitive to energy. They can tell when someone genuinely cares about their well-being or is just going through the motions. They can tell when you are coming from a place of love, acceptance, and wanting the best for them.

    Sure, you need to be diligent in handling all the responsibilities your job entails. But most importantly your heart needs to be fully engaged with the youth. When they know that your actions are truly infused with love and compassion, they will be open to your help and guidance.

    Ways to cultivate the three qualities

    When you patiently work on developing these three qualities in yourself, your relationships with young people will significantly improve.

    Here are some tips:

    • Practice mindfulness and being present in your daily life. Let go of distractions and clutter in your life.
    • Spend time with your own emotions and really feel them. This helps you become attuned to the emotions others are feeling.
    • Seek support to heal your own traumas and emotional wounds. You can’t effectively help others unless you are whole and emotionally healthy.
    • Be aware of the motivations behind your daily activities. Are you serving out of love and compassion or just going through the motions?

    There are many traits a youth worker needs to have to be successful. However, I believe that the unique qualities of presence, emotional attunement, and pure intention are the heart and soul of serving young people.

    Each episode of The Passionate Youth Worker podcast features stories full of these qualities in action. My personal favorite is our latest, Benedetto Zanca: Authenticity Matters, Be Genuine and Authentic. Check out the episodes and find your favorite!

    About the author

    Yedidya Erque is the 0perations associate 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!

    To ask Yedidya a question or share your feedback about this blog, email yedidya@yipa.org.

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