I guess I never real thought about it, I’m not a shy person. As a youth worker I saw other youth workers who were outgoing and up front people. This style of youth work seem to fit my personality and I thought it as the way all youth workers were. I soon discovered that not all youth worker were the same.
Some youth workers have to force themselves to be outgoing when they would rather just work behind the scenes. Teens can be a loud and scary bunch sometimes, so, if this is you, I don’t blame you for being shy or even intimidated by them sometimes.
What can we do to break the ice with teens and get those relationships rolling? Let me offer a few ideas
Invite them to a game
One way I’ve found to break the ice with teen is through play. Maybe I’ starting a game of Ninja or showing kids how to play Munchkin. Either way, when teens are active, engage, and laughing, they tend to open up and allow us to ask questions and be more personable.
Become the student
If kids are doing something interesting, like playing a game on their phone or taking about something you’ve never heard about, show interest and ask them to teach you something new.
Look for cultural clues
I always have my eyes open for cultural clues like band shirts, tattoos, shoe styles, etc. and if those subjects are in my wheelhouse, I share my love for X with them and show that we’re not that far apart.
Invite them to do a task with you
If it’s a Wednesday night, I usually leave a few tasks undone so I can ask kids for help. I have not problem asking a new kid to help because they show up and wonder what we are about. Well, if they’re helping me get ready for service, the find out real quick what we awe about. They made their first meeting happen and I can thank them for their help.
Simple, if teens and grown-ups don’t have anything else in common, we both eat. We have a cafe in our youth room and I always reserve food for guests. If it’s a teens first time with us, their food is on us and I try to eat with them if I can. Whether it’s sharing a meal or a piece of gum, sharing is a great way to start
Got a favorite tip? Leave a comment below.
Here are my go-to books to get kids talking in small groups.
The Complete Book of Questions