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Acknowledgment and reassurance
Before you can think about bringing the conversation to a close, you must make sure that we feel that we have been listened to and that our needs have been met. In the film below, we discuss some key ways that you can help us get to this point.
Nadia: Hi, I’m Nadia. My pronouns are she/her.
Jo: Hi, my name is Jo. My pronouns are she/her or they/them.
Liv: And I’m Liv. My pronouns are she/her.
Nadia: We’re young advisors from Healthy Teen Minds, and together we have worked to build these guides, with input from young people across England.
Jo: We’re going to be taking you through this guide on ‘How to wrap things up’, offering advice from young people on how to respond to a risk conversation, working with young people to build a plan that works for both of you, and how to end the conversation safely in a positive place.
Liv: To start – we’re going to go over responding to risk in an appropriate and supportive way, providing acknowledgement and reassurance.
Nadia: Acknowledgement and reassurance are vital when supporting young people. When responding during a risk conversation, remember to keep reassuring us and validating what we have said.
Jo: Don’t change the subject when things get uncomfortable – this could be the most meaningful and important part of the conversation for us. Allow ample space for us to express ourselves.
Liv: Acknowledge that what we are going through is hard and remember that different people have different thresholds, and it’s not about how you measure what we’ve been through, it’s about our experiences and our ability to manage and cope.
Nadia: Don’t dismiss us by saying things like:
Jo: ‘Oh, you’ll feel better in the morning, just sleep it off’
Liv: ‘You don’t need to do that, like you could just stop’
Nadia: or ‘Just get over it. It’s not that big of a deal’.
Jo: Everyone struggles but in different ways – and we can’t just get over it. Acknowledging this and validating our experiences can go a long way.
Liv: Reassure us that you are here to listen and understand. Saying things like ‘I’m glad you called tonight’ can be really reassuring and make people feel valued even when the conversation is difficult.
Nadia: Depending on how the conversation is going, you could also begin exploring what got us to this point. Talking it through step by step can help us and you understand, and actually giving us space to talk through things can help us come to our own solutions and conclusions in a positive and supported way. To help guide us, say calming things like ‘I’m listening, please carry on…’
Jo: We may have coping mechanisms that you see as destructive – but they are still coping mechanisms that serve a purpose at this point in our journey. Don’t scold us. This will just make us feel judged and misunderstood. Be sure to not compare my coping mechanisms with any others like ‘oh, at least you’re not doing this other thing’.
Liv: Bring empathy and compassion when replying and responding. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to provide care.
Nadia: Work with the young person to find out what would be most helpful for them. Make this a collaborative process and include the young person on any decisions made. It can be really scary reaching out for help, and we may have fears built up around what will happen if we say what’s really going on, or what the consequences might be. Encouraging us and working with us to find solutions will help us feel safe opening up to you and trust you more.
Jo: Acknowledging, validating and reassuring us along this journey helps us through these tough conversations. It helps us feel supported during these discussions which may be hard for both of us.
Reaching out for help can be a scary experience for young people because of fears around what the consequences of being honest and open might be. Acknowledging, validating and reassuring makes tough conversations easier.
One young person we spoke to shared that reassurance, acknowledgement and being allowed space to talk was really helpful when they were in crisis:
‘in that moment when everything was chaotic, she took time to make me feel calm’
Having somebody in that moment who makes you feel genuinely cared for is really powerful. Validating our experiences, especially acknowledging challenges within the system, helps us to trust you and feel like we have done the right thing by speaking to you.
Over the phone, saying simple things like ‘I’m glad you called tonight’ and ‘I’m listening, please carry on…’ can be really helpful when we can’t see your body language, and makes us feel valued even if the conversation was difficult.
Remember also that different people have different thresholds and ability to manage and cope. Coping mechanisms may seem destructive – but they are still coping mechanisms that serve the individual at this point in their journey.
Work with us to find out what would be most helpful and make the conversation about us.
Are there any coping mechanisms you are not familiar with (from experience) or need to better understand?