Parents, counselors, social workers, juvenile justice staff members, and other adults who care about making life better for at-risk youth need strategies that work. Whether you’re a coach, teacher, mental health professional, or employee in an organization devoted to helping troubled kids, these five tips for helping and empowering at-risk youth may help you find greater success.
Praise the Process More Than the Outcome
Possessing the quality known as grit, which is a combination of perseverance, determination, effort, courage, and belief in a growth mindset, can make a difference in a child’s life.
People with a growth mindset believe they can improve and build upon their skills and talents. A growth mindset allows you to believe things can get better, which makes the effort worthwhile—you can get stronger, your grades can improve, you can learn to play the guitar. The quality of grit allows kids to recover from setbacks and keep going.
Adults who support at-risk youth can help by elevating effort over outcome. In other words, praise the hard work that went into earning a C+ instead of making a young person feel inadequate because they didn’t earn a higher grade. Awards are less important than what you learn while striving for them.
Provide Safe Spaces
At-risk minors feel a strong sense of insecurity, making it hard for them to believe anyone really cares. If you’ve shuffled through multiple foster homes, watched a parent fail at rehab, or lost friends and family to violence, nothing seems likely to go your way.
Adults who want to empower at-risk youth can help by creating environments where kids feel safe and free from abuse, violence, and abandonment. It’s critically important not to make promises you can’t keep. Be honest about the support you can provide, but don’t create expectations you can’t fulfill.
Create or Support Mentoring Programs
Youth gain confidence when they are connected to adults who can foster their interests. After-school programs, whether focused on sports, arts, or skilled trades, can empower kids to work hard to pursue their true interests. Classes that teach a life skills course curriculum may also help at-risk kids gain the knowledge they need.
Provide Conflict Resolution and Anger Management Training
An at-risk youth may have never had a role model to demonstrate how to manage anger or resolve conflict through compromise. Arise Foundation offers a life skills course curriculum geared toward at-risk youth. Youth will learn how to respond to anger in socially acceptable ways and resolve disputes without violence.
Support Positive Self-Expression
Involvement in sports, the arts, or volunteering makes at-risk youth feel valued. These activities help them realize that their time and talents matter. They see how they can make a positive difference in the world. Providing youth with outlets like the opportunity to write, paint, play, or help others can build self-esteem. When the world has treated you as disposable, self-esteem is hard-won but worth the effort in a quest to build a better life.