Friday, December 09, 2005

It's your move...

I've had a few interesting conversations about this recently and been asked for some advice so I thought I'd put it out here for other suggestions:

If a young male teenager starts flirting with you or making inappropriate suggestions, what is your response?

  • Flat clear refusal
  • Sarcastic rejection
  • Angry accusation
  • Quiet word away from everyone else
  • Ban him from youth group for a week


Dana Delynn said...

I would say the reaction depends on the youth and the situation. I have encountered this a couple times. One time knowing that it was a joke on the youth's part, so I could be very blunt with him; and another youth I am still not sure if he was joking or serious, so I shrugged it off letting him know that he was not being cool.

EasyRew said...

I'm a male youth leader and this last weekend one of the young people in my group told me by text message (very postmodern) that they "really like me".

To give you a bit of background, she is an adopted child and has had a difficult childhood. She has a lot of emotional baggage, seeks attention in various ways, clings to people very easily, and is something of a challenge to love and support.

For the last year or so I've been trying to help her through the issues in her life - with limited success. One step forward and two steps back...

Obviously with one eye on good Child Protection practice and the other on being a loving and supportive friend, I've tip-toed along the line between the two. I've exercised caution in the things I've said, the way I've said them and in the impression I've given to her. I've recognised for some time that there is the danger that she would see our friendship as something more.

I agree with Dana's comment above about reacting differently according to the young person and the situation. Here is how I've responded so far in this case:

I emailed (because I rarely see them all together) my minister, and fellow youth leaders and described the text message and my proposed actions. They know I've been working closely with her for some time, and we've had frank discussions about the possible dangers/misunderstandings. I explained that I felt it was important for me to talk to her about it at the first opportunity (Youth Group this Wednesday just gone), and that I then also talk to her parents to explain the situation (a joy I look forward to this weekend). They each offered encouragement and support in various ways.

So on Wednesday evening during our Youth Group I took her aside with one of the older female group members (her friend and confidante). I explained that she wasn't in trouble for what she'd said, and that I understood that she would be feeling uncomfortable because I was too. I said that nothing could/would come of her attraction to me and that it puts us in a tricky situation. I told her that I had explained the situation to the other youth leaders because I needed to ensure that everything was out in the open - that way there could be no suggestion of something going on in secret. I said that I didn't want things to change between us - that she could still come to me to talk things through. I made it clear that any chats would have to be conducted "in the open" or with a third party present (something I had already been practicing, but had never stated to her) and that the "friendly hug" which she saw as the ritual to end a chat was probably not helpful, so we would discontinue it.

Despite being incredibly uncomfortable for all three people present, I think it went as well as I could've hoped. Sadly she doesn't react to you when you're talking, so it's difficult to know if she's heard and understood what has been said. Also, she has an uncanny ability to hear whatever she wants to hear - so it was doubly important to have a third-party in the room, so any possible confusion later could be clarified.

I was keen to keep the supportive relationship going, but make it absolutely clear where we both stood. I saw her in passing this evening at the Church Centre and although it was a little awkward she managed a few friendly words. So on Sunday I'll be having a quiet word with her parents to inform them of the situation.

It's difficult to say at this time how I would've reacted differenly if this situation arose with any of the other young people, but I am confident that the background/history of this young person has made this an even more challenging situation.

I hope the above is useful in some way to the people who read it. Either because you use it to criticise how I responded and we can discuss the "proper" way to do it, or because you learn something from it which might help you in a similar situation in the future.


Roger Vere Youth Worker said...

Thanks for contributing this, Rich. it's good to hear of a real situation handled so well.