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Listening to Children and Young People

Key Reflections for Coaches and Mentors by Hannah Butler July 2022

All too often children have a 'good talking to' from well meaning adults. What might happen if we give them a 'good listening to' instead?

Listening to children and young people comes with many challenges. Most of the challenges are ones that are associated with working with people in general, however we have to pay close attention to ourselves when working in this field as we carry our own histories and experiences of our childhood with us. It is important to take time to reflect for, reflect in, and reflect on coaching for children and young people (Thompson and Thompson 2018). This enables us to become aware of the self and reduces the chance of contaminating the space we are creating with our own thoughts, experiences and assumptions. Below are my top ten points you might use for reflection, through this process I invite you to consider more and share these with our community to start the conversations.

  1. Know Your Purpose Why is this work important to you? What do you hope to gain from this work? Where are your intentions coming from?

  2. Know Thyself Get curious with yourself. What are your assumptions about children and young people? What personal bias might you need to be aware of?

  3. Start Gently How will you build rapport and trust? What do you need to think about?

  4. Stay Alongside How will you hold a psychologically safe space for the child/young person to explore?

  5. Dance In The Moment It's not a chase, but more of a gentle stretch. How will you stay and dance in the moment, paying attention to what is?

  6. The Chair of Not Knowing How will you remain curious and stay in the chair of not knowing?

  7. Let Them Be Heard Listening is only part of the work. How will you show that you have heard the child/young person?

  8. Dealing With the Hiccups Many of us make mistakes and say the wrong thing. How will you show vulnerability, humility and recovery?

  9. Silence is Golden How will you be when words fail you? How will you use silence wisely?

  10. Appreciation How will you show your appreciation for the child/young person and their time?

My exploration into reflective practice has taught me that reflection is an art form where we build mastery in reflection and our craft over time. Independent reflection is key part of reflective practice, however I would also invite you to take this coaching with children and young people to Reflective Practice Groups and Supervision. Here you will be empowered to explore your craft and build safe and fulfilling practices for you and the children you work with.

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