A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being a key note speaker at the Beautiful You Coaching Academy Inspiration Day.  I was asked to speak about coaching young people.  While I have recorded over 60 hours of video trainings about this topic in the Youth Mentor Training program and have hosted lots of training days for my youth mentors, this was the first time I had been invited to speak on this topic.

It was such a joy to share my experiences and practical tips for the 60+ life coaches or aspiring life coaches in the room and then get to chat with them afterwards and hear their stories and thoughts on coaching young people.

**Image above by Emma Louise Newby

What I loved most was hearing them really get that anyone can work with young people, as long as they approach it with care.  You may just want to volunteer at your local school every now and then, or you may want to learn more about speaking their language with your nieces and nephews.  Or you might be feeling really called to create a business that supports young people like me.

So many people I speak with are afraid to hold any space for teens because they don’t have a PhD in education or psychology.  Or perhaps they feel as though they need to be a certain age – I’ve heard ‘too old’ and ‘too young’ many many times.  But here’s the thing, anyone can engage with young people and it comes down to being authentic, vulnerable and willing to listen.  

I’ve seen incredible youth speakers and mentors who are in their 60’s and amazing youth mentors who are 18.  Age and qualifications don’t matter, as long as you do the work and the research.   There are many things to consider when holding a space for young people, such as:

Development

  • Their brains are still developing.  So sometimes a young person can be very rational and logical and then all of a sudden be the complete opposite.  It’s called the chaotic brain because development is flipping between left and right hemispheres throughout adolescence.  
  • The pre-frontal cortex of the brain isn’t full developed until our 20’s and this is the centre for reasoning and problem solving.  This is why many young people take risks without understanding the consequences.
  • There are all sorts of issues that come up for young people – either the ones you are working with or perhaps just other people in their community.  Serious issues such as mental health problems, self-harm and eating disorders.  But above all, stress is the number one concern of young people in Australia today.
  • You don’t have to be able to handle all of these situations, but you do need to be able to recognise the signs and refer them on when needed.
  • Their feelings are intense (hello hormones!).  Their friendships are crazy little love affairs and we, as adults, can often downplay situations that are very serious for the young person.  We must always do our best to actively listen and support them, even when the situation might seem trivial to us.

Connection

  • We must be so careful of the language that we use with young people.  Starting a conversation about ‘comparisonitis’ with a young person that hasn’t considered that she should compare herself to others, could plant a seed that wasn’t there yet.  Be really mindful of language and even words like ‘clean eating’ and ‘diet.’  This is how eating disorders can come to life – creating a space where they start to obsess over the food they’re eating.
  • Group coaching is so powerful with young people.  Creating spaces for them to support one another and connect with new people outside of their usual community of friends and family builds self-esteem and resilience.
  • Even though they look like adults, they still actually really love boundaries and safety.  You can create this in the space (music, oils, temperature, styling of room, etc), in being really open about expectations and coming up with guidelines together.
  • They can often value the opinions of their peers over their parents.  Typically around the 14/15 year mark they start to want to break away a little from their parents and develop their own identity.  This is why other adult mentors in their life can be so so powerful.  They often just need to chat with someone else without the fear of being judged.

Legislation + Business

  • There are legislative things to be aware of when working with young people, such as understanding the confidentiality act and your duties to report to the authorities about young people who are harming themselves, others or are being abused in some way.  You also need release forms signed, parental consent forms, etc.
  • And for those considering building a business around working with young people, my biggest tip would be to market your business and connect with the ADULTS in their life, not the teens.  I see so many businesses starting out marketing to the kids but they are not the ones who will invest in a program, the parents will.  So building trust with the adults, whether that’s parents, teachers or community groups, is so important.

These are just some of things that make coaching or working with young people a little different than working with adults.  If you’ve been considering this kind of work for yourself, then I’d love you to take the quiz ‘Do you have what it takes to be a youth mentor?’  Sign up on this page to be sent the complete eBook which includes a quiz to see if this is the type of thing you would enjoy and then a deeper quiz to help you discover your Youth Mentor Archetype to get clear on the type of youth mentor you would be.

Let me know what your Youth Mentor Archetype is below or send me a little email here.  Enjoy!

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