We all have moments where we wish we were somewhere else, but what happens when you’re working with a child or young person who struggles to engage constructively with another young person and the expectation is that they will?

Working together is an essential component of classrooms, youth clubs, life in general. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert, have a specific educational need, or mental health need, the fact is, you’ll find times in life when you have to work WITH others, not just alongside them.

It’s easy to blame social media for many of the issues we face today and for some young people being insular, however, social media (or media in print form), to an extent, could be our friend. Current affairs and an awareness of what is happening to the world around us are essential to the development of a young person’s life. They have a thirst for knowledge even when it seems like they don’t. Remember those times they ask ‘Why?’ and you feel you’ve answered a zillion times already? They’re peeling back the layers of the onion on their lives. They want an answer. They need an answer, so let’s answer, or let’s work together to find an answer. Just because we know the answer (or think we know the answer), doesn’t mean we cannot open a dialogue to explore it further.

Have you cracked open a newspaper recently, torn out the headlines and done a montage with them, used an actual map or globe to explore the planet, not simply used online maps to scroll the page which really doesn’t show the vastness of where we are in it? Programmes fronted by Attenborough can be a great talking point. None of these things might be the greatest interest sparker for a parent or other key adult in a young person’s life, but modelling an inquisitive mind of the world around you and the discussions that can result when you both ask why, not only helps demonstrate an awareness in the world, but allows questions and a dialogue to be struck up. There’s also no reason why an older sibling or peer can’t be tasked with supporting a younger child with this delve into life.

Children and teens have such great access to what’s going on across the world thanks to the computer in their hands, but let’s feed their brains with questions, hypothesis, ideas, wonderment, and our our thoughts which we should allow to be challenged, rather than letting the screen have all the answers. You could even put a straightforward ‘fact of the day’ up on the fridge. Most young people will venture there at some point during the day and who knows what interest it will spark. If you’re a teacher, why not put it on the classroom door as they come in? In my youth centre, we’ve a whiteboard in our entrance lobby, which if the weather is good, will get put outside for before they come in. Put something out there with a ‘Do you agree? What’s your thoughts? Tell me your view’ comment next to it. Open up those channels. If it allows them to show a greater interest in the world around them and engage with adults or peers, this may benefit them back in the classroom or other settings where working with others is required as they develop the skills needed to function more constructively with others rather than simply alongside.



(Image courtesy of Frank Wittowski (structuro)) on Pixabay)