Where endings begin

How you end any one to one relationship is just as important as how you start it. We will assume for this blog that the relationship you have had with the young person has been positive and that there has been the desired change within the young person.

I’ve blogged about beginnings before where I wrote about 10 things that you should know about starting intentional relationships In it I said:

Work Towards an Ending in Day 1:
One of the worst things is coldly letting a young person know that they are in their last week, not having prepped them for the ending. That’s why if I know I will be working with a young person for 10 weeks we start talking about that in day one. They know it will be ending.

Endings can provoke difficult or unexpected feelings associated with past losses such as separation abandonment, or anger especially if ending is not the children and young people’s choice. These feelings may feel too sensitive, children and young people may avoid them by not attending concluding sessions. Which is why as people working with a children or young people we need to be sensitive to these issues and act accordingly to prepare the young person.

An ending needs to be planned for and the child or young person needs to know when it will happen. For so many young people they have had to deal with endings their whole life. Each ending is a loss and how a young person is prepared for, perceives and processes that loss will shape how it affects them. Therefore we have to start from day one and support the transition to the separation from that point.

How we do this will vary from young person to young person. The important thing is that you do it. You acknowledge that this one to one relationship will end. You may know the young person in a different context as well, perhaps in a youth group but that this unique relationship will end.

As you move towards ending your sessions you should look to provide an opportunity to discuss with the child or young person how they will support themselves in the future when counselling has finished. Looking at the focus of your sessions you may have learnt coping and resilience and the ending is where you reinforce this learning and develop ways to recall and how it can be applied to other situations.

For younger children having a visual representations of the number of sessions left can be very helpful. The use of small stones being moved into a bag can help a young person gain a concrete understanding of the ending by counting down the number of sessions remaining. This could give some young people anxiety as the sessions count down, however this in itself is a great way to open up conversation around endings. This should be done at the start of each session and can be a way to celebrate the changes that are being made throughout the process. It is important when doing this that the young person moves the stone themselves as this is putting the tangible experience in their own hands as well as empowering them to see the process for themselves.

However well the young person has done how the sessions are perceived will mostly shape their ability to carry on the work after the sessions have finished. So how they narrate the story of the process to themselves is important. This, in turn, is shaped by their experience which you help to shape by preparing them for the ending. We don’t know but how we do this might it impact on their future relationships?

Finally, we must celebrate what the young person has managed to to achieve. In the end they may feel sad at the loss of a warm relationship but in that moment we reflect on their ability to move on and celebrate that they can.

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