If you are in regular contact with at-risk youth, whether as a teacher or participant in a community program, you are probably interested in doing all you can to help these kids get on the right track and stay there. There are so many bad influences they are exposed to on a regular basis, and without intervention from caring adults, they will be setting themselves up for a life rife with struggle, poverty, crime and emotional turmoil. Here are just a few helpful strategies for effectively assisting them during this crucial time.
Help the Child Form Reachable Goals
Setting clear goals is a crucial key for success in life, no matter the person. But, they are particularly important for at-risk youth who can easily be led down the wrong path. The key to goals is formulating ones that are challenging enough to provide motivation and a sense of satisfaction for achieving them, but not so bold the child will struggle excessively, feel discouraged and give up.
For example, if the child is doing very badly in school, setting a goal to get on the honor roll the next marking period may be a bit of a stretch. Carefully evaluate the child’s situation, and their desires, to formulate reachable goals that will motivate him to keep raising the bar. According to well-known Nevada-based mentor Mr. Aaron DelSignore, education is one of the most important aspects to tackle with at-risk youth
Help Them Evaluate Risks and Benefits More Effectively
Children are not the best decision-makers, and the environment many at-risk youth find themselves in, puts them in a position to make some really bad choices that pose great danger and have far-reaching consequences.
One of the best ways to help them make better choices is not just expounding on the risks they take, and the potential repercussions. Yes, that is certainly important, but you also need them to focus more on the benefits of making the better decisions—the more this is top-of-mind, the less appealing the risky moves will seem. They need to be able to clearly see the benefits of alternative courses of action. For optimal effectiveness, it is best to focus on the short-term risks and benefits as these will be the most salient to a younger person.
Teach Practical Skills to Help Them Navigate their Environment
All the learning in the world won’t help at-risk youth if they are not equipped with practical skills to apply all they have learned, and make better choices. They need to be given real-world tasks, and strategies to prepare them to navigate the various situations they will encounter in their daily lives. For example, if you are trying to help teens avoid having sex or using drugs, helping them practice refusal skills can be very useful—they can be taught what to say, and how to handle the situation. The practice will not only give them greater self-confidence in using what they have learned, it will help reinforce the better choices and their benefits.
These three tips can help you more effectively counsel at-risk youth, and reach your goal of helping them create a better future.