Young people flourish when they feel truly connected and understood. Empathy, warmth, patience, encouragement, mutual trust and acceptance are all relationship biggies. When trusting relationships and the safety that comes with them are sustained, both the staff member and young person are more able to be ‘mind-aware’ and develop ‘mind-mindedness’ or mentalisation – the ability to see ourselves as others see us and others as they see themselves, to get a sense of each other’s feelings and thoughts. Although it’s not always straightforward, consistency is crucial for boundaries to be clear and maintained.
Boundaries are what young people crave, even when, and especially when, they’re not able to be consistent themselves. Young people learn about themselves through the way we relate to them, and mindfulness is at the core of caring collaborations. Warm and sensitive validation of their thoughts and emotions helps them work out what triggers their feelings and can neutralise and heal difficult parts of their experience. Clearly, successfully building a positive alliance leads to happier outcomes. Each young person is special, unique, with his or her distinctive blend of potential and talents. So we emphasise the importance of giving liberal, generous and sincere praise.