How to help in a caring, supportive way
Get clear on your role: Are we there to protect children or to teach children to protect and defend themselves; to give solutions or to help them find their own?
Listen. Maintain eye contact, with minimal or no talking.
Distinguish between feelings and behaviors. Remember that there’s a difference between wanting to hurt someone and actually hurting someone.
Accept. This means the absence of judgmental, shocked or disappointed words, looks, body language; not making someone wrong for his or her feelings.
Validate. Validation is anything you say or do that recognizes and respects the reality of the child’s experience, and gives the child permission to have his or her feelings.
Maintain your boundaries. Let kids know when you’ll be available. Watch the tendency to take responsibility for the child’s feelings or problems by trying to fix the situation, cheer them up (fix them), or by rescuing or advising.
Provide healthy, non-hurtful outlets for feelings (and meeting needs)
Ask–don’t tell. This is for problem-solving more than dealing with feelings (affective states). Helps children find solutions to their own problems, think about options available, anticipate probable outcomes. Puts you in the role of facilitator or guide. A great alternative to advice-giving!
Model and teach conflict-management. Demonstrate non-destructive ways to have, express, and process feelings; express needs; set and maintain boundaries.
Excerpted and adapted from The Win-Win Classroom, by Dr. Jane Bluestein, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Publishing, © 2008), and Parents, Teens & Boundaries, by Dr. Jane Bluestein (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1995). Translated by Maria Petrakis.
This page is also available in French and Spanish.
© 1995, 2008, 2012, 2022, Dr. Jane Bluestein
Non-supportive Responses to Avoid
An Alternative to Advice Giving: Asking questions to guide problem solving
Bearing Witness: Support for Children in Crisis
Questions, Not Answers
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