Stop and enjoy the view

Back in 1996 I visited Africa and travelled around 9 different countries in a converted army overland truck. It was an amazing trip and I was able to visit some amazing places. One stop was on the edge of what was then called Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) with the plan of walking up the Mountains of the Moon. An incredible mountain range on the equator with tropical jungle at its base and snow at the peek.

I was really excited to make this walk and started out with high hopes of making it. The first day was a long hard trudge up the mountain, through jungle with both the temperature and humidity ridiculously high. I was determined to make it though. By lunch time the path had all but disappeared and it was down to simply scrambling up the mountain.

So head down and step forward.

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The (hidden) impact

Last night I picked both daughters up from a Roller Disco birthday party and had an unexpected conversation. 2 of the mums came up to me and thanked me for writing the blog. One even shared that they had changed their professional practice because of some of what I had written on the subject of setting clear boundaries.  Honestly, I was surprised and incredibly flattered.

I can obviously see that people are reading the blog because of the analytics that wordpress offer. However, there is a real difference between seeing a blue bar with a number attached to it and having people come to me and say that not only have they read but it has had a direct impact on their work. It’s not the first time either.

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What makes a relationship therapeutic

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of allowing young people to choose to be with you and giving them an “out”. In doing this you build trust with the young person by showing them that you are there for them and for their journey and not with the agenda of a parent, carer, teacher or agency. You have no agenda but to help them.

So often relationships can appear to have an agenda and in thinking about this I believe that it highlights the importance of very good beginnings. This is something I have written about before and believe that beginnings are the most important part of any one to one session as it sets the tone for what is to come.

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Allow young people to leave

One of the more important aspects of working with young people in a one to one relationship is that they have chosen to work with you. It seems really obvious and simplistic, however without a positive choice that someone has made it is hard to help them move towards change.

I often see young people because life has become hard, they have experienced loss, they has lost control of their emotions or for one or more of the reasons above they have stopped engaging with learning.

The issue often found when working in schools is that there is a potential for young people to be placed into a relationship because those around them feel that it is best for them and they simply go along with it. I absolutely love it when a young person asks to see me, but this is rare, especially in Primary Schools.

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Rest to work?

Rest and down time are considered indulgent practices that are often portrayed as unachievable. We live in a culture of overwork and we have too many commitments, are involved in too many projects and as a result to not connect with ourselves. Like living a constant out of body experience we see our lives as a never ending supply of to-do’s and deadlines. It really can feel that at time we only experience our lives as a third party observer.

One reason that rest is so important is that not resting is actually unproductive. Rest is productive. I recognise that this is a difficult concept to get our head around. It’s an idea that is counterintuitive for most of us.

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Practice is everything

Yesterday I sat in my favourite coffee shop in Southend, waiting for my clinical supervision and drinking some great coffee while doing a good amount of people watching. On one table near me sat a man who was probably in his 80’s with a chess board in front of him. Over the 2 hours I was there I watched him offer games to any person who walked into this cafe.

He didn’t know these people but time after time he would offer. In his time he had 3 games with different people. He won every game.

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Lion and the pursuit of Shalom

Last night I watched Lion, the true story with Dev Patel as Saroo & Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother in the lead roles. From the very first moment I was drawn into this incredible story of love, loss and finding your home.

The film explores the ideas of loss on so many levels and the Hollywood machine does a very good job of NOT destroying the integrity of the people and their emotions. Each theme of loss was held in balance with the other. Each given space to breath and express themselves in a truly honest way.

The relationship between Saroo and his parents are handled so well. The choices that this childless couple made and the tensions between them that the adopted children from a different culture and continent were delicately expressed.

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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.

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Youth Workers, the church and supervision

In the last couple of days I’ve been considering the importance of supervision. Why we get effected, what to do about it and ultimately the importance that supervision plays in our practice when working with young people.

This has led to me to be a bit reflective about the times when I haven’t had supervision, the consequences of that and therefore ultimately when I really did need it. Of course hindsight is a luxury that no one has, which is why considering the question, “Do I need or should I have supervision?” is such an important question to ask right now.

One of the most pressured jobs, I have ever had, was that of a church youth worker. Working in a church meant that you played a multifaceted role in the lives of young people. I found myself being a guidance- counsellor, mentor, counsellor, leader, statutory youth worker, events co-ordinator, worship leader, technician, spiritual advisor, trainer, volunteer manager, preacher, life and soul of the party (not a role I am very good at, at all), I could go on and on.

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More thoughts on Supervision

It is often worth while stopping and reflecting on the work we do, what it means to us, how we view it and assess its affect on us, both positively and negatively. All too often, without much thought, we can be deeply drawn into our work through the pressures that are placed upon us from others or those we place on ourselves. Before we are aware of it, we are knee deep and struggling to stop ourselves from sinking.

This is something that I see often especially with those people whose primary focus is upon the emotional needs of others. For me, this means mentoring, counselling and something that lies in a delicate balancing act between the two of these.

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