How do psychologists communicate with children and adolescents at risk? What are they talking to them about? How effective are these conversations? Can a specialist “reach out” to a child, or is this communication carried out solely to “tick”? Are such conversations necessary? What is meant by the term “risk group”?
It would seem that such questions are of interest only to a narrow circle of people directly confronted with “difficult teenagers” - the parents of their friends, teachers, school psychologists and teachers. But in fact, this topic is relevant for every person, because you can not remain indifferent to how the next generation is growing.
What are these conversations for?
It is unlikely that a conversation with adolescents at risk of a psychologist working in school is pleasing or encouraging. However, their specialist is required to carry out. Why do we need these conversations?
According to social statistics, the number of children who find themselves in difficult life circumstances is steadily increasing every year. This is very paradoxical, if we take into account the fact that family values, a healthy lifestyle and raising two or more children, instead of one, are now in fashion. You can verify this by turning on the TV or by viewing pages on social networks.
That is, there should be no problems in the lives of children and adolescents. Now it’s not considered normal to leave a man’s family, most of the women are housewives, and in schools a lot of time is devoted to various thematic classes that instill in children values and traditions accepted in society.
But, in spite of this, the number of those who are usually called “difficult teenagers” is steadily increasing. It is precisely helping children who find themselves in a difficult situation that is the primary task of such conversations. And the topics of conversations with adolescents at risk are selected in accordance with this goal. Of course, in a global sense, such conversations are necessary in order to improve statistics and stop the growth in the number of “difficult children”.
What is a “risk group”?
This is a common expression known to every person. It can be heard in television programs, films, in ordinary conversations. Parents of schoolchildren often come across this expression, because it is often pronounced by teachers in meetings. The term is familiar, but what does it mean?
In sociology, this name is used as a generalized definition to refer to persons vulnerable in something or inclined to unacceptable actions, acts that are contrary to law, morality, and norms accepted in society.
What is meant by the term “adolescent risk group”?
When choosing topics for conversations with adolescents at risk, you need to clearly understand who you will have to communicate with. If you have an individual conversation, then the task of a psychologist is simplified. Indeed, it is much simpler to study the “personal matter” of one person than being able to reach out to several people at the same time.
Of course, adolescents at risk are united by certain life circumstances, types of emotional reactions, and much more.
Traditionally, this social group includes children and adolescents:
- from dysfunctional and single-parent families;
- having problems in learning, communication, development;
- prone to defiant, atypical behavior.
However, when pondering the topics of conversations with adolescents at risk, you should not limit yourself to these characteristics only.
What to consider when choosing a topic for conversation?
The traditional perception of factors by the presence of which children are at risk has developed a very long time ago. Accordingly, it does not take into account current contemporary social problems.
For example, in the United States, children who are prone to unmotivated aggression, mass killings, and suicide are primarily at risk. How relevant are these problems for Russian teenagers?
In other words, in addition to general, traditionally accepted factors, the topics of the psychologist’s conversations with adolescents at risk should also take into account relevant contemporary problems that exist both in a particular region and in the world as a whole. This will help to make the conversation lively and interesting, important for children, and not empty and held “for show”.
An example of building a conversation with a group of teenagers taking into account local characteristics
For example, if you have to talk about organizing free time, finding yourself an activity, then you should take a closer look at exactly how and where teenagers spend their leisure time. You do not need to immediately tell the children of fiery monologues about the benefits of volunteering or try to captivate them with the possibility of free classes in the sports section. Any agitation is perceived by adolescents as an “act of violence”, children see this as only an infringement of their freedom. Moreover, they are initially inclined to tell them how bad they are and explain how to become good. That is, teenagers who came to the lecture are ready to “defend themselves”.
How to overcome this barrier? First, you need to immediately break the stereotype of the conversation. What are the children waiting for? Monologue by a psychologist who addresses their company. And what happens if, after the greeting, start asking questions and waiting for answers? Teenagers are at a loss, and their minds will be freed from the “stereotype armor”.
In other words, a lecture needs to be turned into a conversation. What to ask children about? About what is relevant for them. For example, if there is an old abandoned building near the school and everyone knows that teenagers gather there, you need to ask why they like it there.
Conducting a conversation in this way, the psychologist will build “trust bridges” and learn a lot about the inner world of adolescents and their interests, concerns, problems. And the same volunteering or sports sections can be mentioned by chance, for example, to talk about the fact that I recently had to visit a similar place. Thus, the specialist “sows the seeds” in the minds of adolescents, who will necessarily “sprout”.
That is, the topics of conversations with adolescents at risk should include local realities, build on them, the conversation should be specific, not abstract.
What is written in teaching aids for school psychologists?
There are many different teaching aids that explain what you should talk about with difficult, troubled teens. As a rule, in these books the same topics of conversation with adolescents at risk and their parents are mentioned.
Why are there no differences? Because the list of topics is initially given a generalized, approximate. This means that the directions that should be followed when choosing topics for conversation are listed.
These areas are affected by important and significant topics that do not lose their relevance over time. For example, awareness of one's “I”, the role in the life of the collective and society, personal responsibility for actions, words and deeds, opposition to pressure from more powerful personalities. These issues were important in the past, they will not lose relevance in the future.
What is customary to talk with teens about? A list of sample topics
Preventive conversations with adolescents at risk should cover the following topics:
- building relationships with people around you;
- the influence of one person on another;
- motivation of actions;
- finding a common language with parents;
- leisure activities;
- interest in learning;
- failure and ability to deal with them;
- the harm of doping;
- healthy lifestyle;
- compliance with social norms and rules;
- personal, family and universal values;
- stress, depression.
Of course, each of the topics should affect adolescents. That is, to be close and understandable to them. And for this, one should take into account local features and general trends, fashion.
For example, the topic of the dangers of doping. What is customary to talk about? The vast majority of experts talk about the dangers of smoking and drinking, casually touching on issues related to substance abuse.
But how many children smoke, drink alcohol or retire with toxic substances? Most of them do not even think of it, because they spend time mainly on the Internet and at McDonald's, and not in the gateways, as it was at the end of the last century. But it’s enough to go outside and pass by fast-food establishments popular with teenagers in order to notice that almost all of them consume energy drinks and smoke with “vapes”. And these are doping, and much more terrible than drugs, cigarettes or alcohol, since there are no problems with their acquisition.
Such nuances must be taken into account when preparing a conversation with adolescents at risk.
How and what to talk with parents?
School psychologists, like teachers, communicate not only with children, but also with their parents. Moreover, talking with the older generation is much more difficult than with teenagers.
Conversations with parents of adolescents at risk should relate to the same thematic areas as conversations with the children themselves. But, of course, building a dialogue should be different. It is very difficult to talk with parents, who initially boasted of their own "omniscientness" and were hostile. Overcoming such a “defense” is extremely difficult, and there is no single template for the conversation. It is necessary to try to find topics close to parents, and not to let them know that they are to blame for something, missed something in education.
It is even more difficult to communicate with parents who come "for show". This type of adult is characterized by the following:
- agree with each statement;
- nodding hard, sighing;
- ask rhetorical questions with extreme concern on the face;
- can outline what has been said;
- Do not interrupt or argue.
For such parents, the child is a priori “bad”, and the essence of their behavior is expressed in the following - “tell me, teach me what to do.” If the conversation is conducted with the child, then such parents can give him a symbolic slap.
The problem is that as soon as they go beyond the school threshold, their behavior changes. These people do not take psychologists seriously and simply demonstrate the necessary reaction in order to be left behind.
Thus, the specialist’s task is for his parents to take him seriously, not see him as an enemy, and support his efforts. But it is not necessary to explain to adults what is good and what is not, they themselves know this very well.
How to build individual communication with a difficult teenager?
An individual conversation with a teenager at risk is, on the one hand, much easier than communication with a group of children, and on the other, more difficult.
The specialist’s task in this situation is to identify those problems that push the child to inappropriate actions, asocial behavior, and violation of the rules. If the child is prone to excessive gloom, is not particularly sociable and generally gives the impression of a person who is depressed, then the task of the specialist is complicated by the fact that he reveals a tendency to suicide or harm others.
Build a conversation in the form of dialogue. You should not read moral instruction to the child, it will be possible to reach it only if he feels respect from the specialist.
How to achieve this? You should start by recognizing the fact that a teenager has every right to experience negative emotions, to be offended, to be angry. As soon as the child understands that they are not condemning him and are not trying to “teach” anything, he will open up and tell about everything that is a problem for him.
What is a “conversation protocol"?
Each school psychologist is obliged to draw up a protocol of conversation with a teenager at risk. What it is? This is a document in which the specialist records the content of the conversation with the child.
Typically, a standard protocol includes the following items:
- F. I. O. of the child and specialist;
Of course, the name of the educational institution or social center is also indicated. There are no unified requirements for the design of the protocol, so additional items may be included in it.