Hands on Help - Youth
group magazine: February, 1994
From: February 1994 GROUP Magazine
Keywords: Touch Divorce Attitude Adoptees
HANDS ON HELP
WORKING WITH YOUTH
To Touch or Not to Touch
Fear of sexual abuse accusations in a lawsuit-happy society have prompted caring people who work with kids to avoid all touch-even when kids initiate it.
Cordelia Anderson, director of Sensibilities, Inc., believes positive touch is healing, and she dispels the myth that real professionals don't touch.
To help determine whether your touch with kids is positive or negative, Anderson suggests you:
*Ask whose needs are getting met. Reflect on whether your touch is intended to nurture the kids or to dispel your own loneliness. Remember that youth leaders have privileged, powerful positions, and abuse often starts with touch that is okay.
*Always use common sense-especially in the "gray areas" of touch. One example is touch between college-age volunteers and high school kids. In this case, the volunteers are authority figures, not peers. When college-age kids join your ministry team, make it clear that sexualized touch and romantic relationships with the youth group members are off-limits.
*Know your comfort level and boundaries. "Kids are needy and can suck you dry," Anderson says. Teenagers desperately want affection and attention, and they often develop crushes on their youth group leaders and teachers. Determine ahead of time how you'll deal with that situation and where you'll set your limits.
*Teach the skills to talk about confusing touch, and create an environment where it's safe to talk about it. Practice assertiveness and respectful listening. Make sure your kids know it's okay to tell you if they're uncomfortable with touch they receive from anyone in the youth group.
Ministering to Kids of Divorce
Gary Sprague, director of Kids in the Middle, a program for kids of divorce, offers these practical tips for helping what he calls "modern-day orphans":
1. Spend one-on-one time with kids of divorce. They need individualized, undivided attention from adults, and they'll respond to your time investment.
2. Know their family backgrounds. Understanding their home lives will give you some insight into the behavior of kids of divorce. Living with a divorced parent isn't a license to misbehave, but knowing about your kids' home situations can help you intervene in or prevent misbehavior.
3. Acknowledge their emotions. Listen to kids without judging or negating their feelings. Let them vent their frustrations, and don't feel like you always have to provide answers.
4. Get them in touch with other kids of divorce. Kids respond well to knowing they aren't alone. Teenagers of divorce can provide support, encouragement, and empathy for one another.
5. Be a helper not a rescuer. Authentic change can only happen in a teenager's life when he or she makes good use of your resources and help by being willing to make things better.
To effectively relate and minister to kids, you must identify, anticipate, and cope with their individual and collective attitudes. Here's how:
*Find a volunteer who's good at sensing kids' attitudes and seek that person's input regularly.
*Even though your kids may seem similar, realize that they each have significant differences in their attitudes. And the same teenager can have a different attitude from week to week.
*Know what makes your youth group and its individual members tick. Discover their motivations and look for ways to maintain positive attitudes in each teenager.
*To combat negative attitudes, first find out if they're due to frustration, boredom, resentment, jealousy, a need for attention, and so on.
A Search Institute study found that adopted teenagers are more at risk than nonadopted teenagers in the following areas:
ADOPTED YOUTH NONADOPTED YOUTH
sexually active 39% 31%
suicide attempt 19% 13%
daily cigarette use 17% 12%
drinking and driving 16% 12%
group fighting 15% 12%
vandalism 12% 9%
police trouble 9% 7%
Copyrightę 1994 Group Publishing, Inc. / GROUP Magazine