There has been an increased emphasis on child-inclusive and child-focused practice in family relationship service delivery in recent years. Yet there has been little discussion about how engaging with children may differ according to the age and developmental stage of the child. Engaging young people successfully in a family counselling setting, for example, will often require a skilled use of communication that incorporates an understanding of the intricate nature of adolescent development and how this relates to the issues for the family.
It is useful to understand the types of behaviours or actions that adolescents may engage in – and why they may engage in them – and offer open lines of communication to the young person. This may not only help the young person express their emotions, needs and desires, but can also help to model good communication skills to parents. We often ask questions in a way that can silence young people. We can also become so focused on getting a literal response that we miss the things that they are telling us through their behaviour or actions. The following tips may help workers to engage in more respectful and supportive conversations with young people that will better allow them to express themselves.