12/17/18 – Conversations with Teens

Engaging in the simplest of conversations with teens can be challenging, therefore when it comes to talking about sensitive topics, such as dating, the challenges seem overwhelming. On October 30th, FaCT sponsored a training on how to engage with teens titled “Conversations with Teens: How to have a discussion with teens from a trauma-informed perspective”. Sasha Morales, from Human Options shared her own experiences, provided tools to talk about often difficult topics such as safety, healthy relationships, and teen dating violence (TDV). Through this hands-on workshop participants learned and practiced engaging teens in difficult conversations with a trauma informed perspective.

Sasha began by asking the question, “How many of your parents talked to you about dating?” Very few hands went up, this personal experience, or lack thereof, combined with such troubling statistic as “1 in 3 teens will experience some type of violence in a dating relationship” and “1 in 10 high school students will be physically abused by a dating partner in the United States every year” often provokes intense emotions in both the young person and us, as we approach these conversations. The training gave the following strategies when faced with, what Sasha called, “a teachable moment” ” if FRC staff were to witness teens in various abusive scenarios.

  1. Intervene and separate the teens to help de-escalate the situation or get help from another staff member.
  2. Address safety and health first. Ask if either one needs immediate medical attention.
  3. Tell the teen that you saw the incident and what steps you will take next.
  4. Tell the victim of abuse that you are concerned for their safety and remind them that the violence is not their fault.
  5. Tell perpetrator of abuse that you are concerned about their behavior (be specific) and their actions were abusive.
  6. Report to your immediate supervisor.
  7. Determine next steps

These steps are a wonderful tool to add to our ‘tool belt’ but they still can feel cold and can potentially push away the person we are working to engage. The training combined these specific actions steps with a Trauma Informed Care (TIC) perspective to ensure that our efforts to engage, especially those with a history of trauma, became more effective. The training shared how to utilize the following six core components of TIC Service Approach (which build on each other): Safety (physical and emotional), Trustworthiness, Choice and Inclusion, Empowerment, Collaboration, and Language. Language bring one of the key concepts for engagement. The group was able to work on their choice of words and Sasha shared the following with the group on how to reframe your conversations with teens to help aid in engaging them and leading to a positive outcome:

Human Options’ TDV for Educators
Trauma Informed Care:

  • You should not let them treat you the way they do, you need to value yourself more.
    • TIC: You deserve to be treated with respect in your relationship. How do you feel about the way you partner treats you.
  • You need to break up with them because this relationship is not good for you.
    • TIC: This is not your fault. I will support your relationship decisions, but your safety is my main concern. What can we do to make sure you are safe?
  • You keep saying that you’re going to break up with the, and you’re still with them. I can’t help you if you can’t or won’t help yourself.
    • TIC: I understand that you aren’t ready to leave yet and I will be here to when you are ready, but let’s talk about how this relationship is making you feel.
  • Your partner is such a bad person, why do you let them treat you that way?
    • TIC: I understand that you really care for this person, but I am concerned about your…(dropping grades, attendance, changes in attitude towards your teachers…) and your safety and overall well-being.
  • Good for you for breaking up/leaving them.
    • TIC: I am really proud of you. It takes a lot of courage to leave a relationship, now what can we do to make sure you stay safe and focus on you?
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