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    Promising Practices to Support a Young Person in Your Life

    By: Sharazazi Dyson, MEd

    Hey parents, guardians and caregivers, this blog post may be a helpful read in strengthening connection and communication with a youth in your life. Some of the tips and information below can be applied to all with or without any mental health diagnoses (even adults!). 

    I like to call the below promising practices because sometimes “best practices” may give a bit too much pressure, it may also imply the tips are guaranteed to work, easy or “foolproof” but navigating caring for and about a young person rarely provides universal truths. 

    • Practice patience and self-regulation (this is for you to do, the caregiver). This can be difficult even as adults with experience and knowledge about the importance of self-regulation. Being able to identify what triggers an emotional and unregulated response in you is a great first step. 
      • Potential Triggers or beliefs that lead to acting without being regulated
        • “I expect they should know better”
        • “I feel a lack of control and I don’t like that”
        • “I feel they are intentionally disrespectful”
        • “I have an unidentified need”
      • Ways to Practice Self-regulation
        • Deep breathing
        • Count to 10 
        • Use HALT and check if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired
    • Remember, you aren’t being ignored or dismissed if someone is unable to process, hear or understand what you are saying. Ignoring implies intention, a refusal to take notice. Consider if you are giving directives when they are engaged in a game or otherwise distracted and how that might impact their ability to process your ask.
    • Give effective and clear instructions. Break into manageable pieces and it may be helpful to use “first, then” or numbered language. “First fix your bed, then organize your toys”. 
    • Giving and getting advice. It’s important to teach your child that asking for help when you need it is not only okay, but also a crucial element of getting older. It’s also important that you be open to taking advice from your children about their experiences.
    • Collaborate to create structure. As a young person control is often limited, involve them in this process. 
    • Build in time for transitions. Give 5 minute and 1 minute reminders. Mark transitions with a timer, sound, high five, checking it off, etc
    • If worried about restlessness and physical movement, reflect if it is a safety concern, social issue or a preference concern and address accordingly.
      • Standing, pacing or squatting during dinner while home, might not be a safety or social concern. You all can potentially create rules that as food is being served everyone sits, so as to not accidentally bump into one another, with knives and other food but standing while eating is appropriate. You can also discuss the social concern of standing while at school like at lunch (if worried about bullying), but perhaps a number of kids also stand, or the teachers don’t care, then you focus on safety, such as maybe not jumping or running as to not choke, but standing as fine. You may also have a preference concern that “everyone sits still during dinner” because of how you were raised. Consider the help and harm in holding onto preferences and how they may impact your connection and communication.
        • Sometimes as the caregiver, the social concern is your own. You may be worried about what society might think of you, worried people may label you or your child, or worried about what your family may say. Those worries are understandable and are an opportunity for you to explore and manage them.
    • Incorporate positive discipline. The goal of this model is to help people find a sense of belonging and significance.   

    Keep in mind as an adult in a young person’s life, they will get insight into self-regulation, connection and communication techniques through the way they see you interact with them and manage your feelings. I hope the above promising practices are helpful and as you continue to explore, if what you reflect on is causing you distress or brings more questions than answers, I urge you to speak with a counseling professional. 


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