Session 9/13Page 4/5: Topic B: Relations development between children and teenagers: group development and individual friendships
Topic B: Relations development between children and teenagers: group development and individual friendships
At the same time, a placement in an institution is social training that should increase the children’s ability to be around other children and youth and give them the sense of being socially functional. This can be a very difficult balance.
The researcher William Schutz distinguishes between three elements in group development that can be worked with professionally in both individual relations and in child/youth group development. The three elements are negotiated in the following order:
- Inclusion: to feel included and accepted as member of a child/youth group
- Control: to find a division of roles, a degree of influence and limits
- Confidentiality: to find the degree of confidentiality and intimacy that makes the participants function best.
Only when these negotiations are in place in the group, the everyday life can function as a secure base. A large part of the negative behaviour of placed children and youth can be viewed as a search for security and/or reactions on failed efforts to negotiate the three elements above and create relations or find one’s place in the group.
The theme of the following discussion is therefore: How can caregivers actively support children and youth in their attempts to manage friendships and function in a group?
Divide participants into three work groups. Each group work with an element and write down their suggestions.
Group 1: Inclusion:
- Who feels inside and who feels outside in the child/youth group?
- What behaviour can be viewed as attempts to be accepted in the group?
- Ideas: How can we put words on the children’s strategies and perceive them positively as attempts?
- How can we propose alternative behaviour to gain accept?
- Give a concrete suggestion, for example: “You often yell and interrupt during cosy afternoon time. I think it is because you are nervous about feeling outside and of course you do what you can to be accepted – everybody wants to be part of the group. You could also try to say “I also want to be heard/join in””.
- How can we talk openly with the children and teenagers about inclusion and exclusion challenges that we can see they are struggling with and how can we guide them?
Group 2: Control:
- Where do we see the children/youth make attempts to find their roles, set limits and test their influence in the group hierarchy?
- What behaviour (give examples) can be seen as an attempt to define/change one’s role or status in the group?
- Ideas: How can we individually and in the group describe the children’s strategies and perceive them positively as attempts?
- For example: “Everybody tries to find their place I the group, but X and Y haven’t figured out who is the leader, so every time we are gathered, they both try to take control. Then the time goes with that and no one gets to have fun. This is why Z and Q never say anything. Both of you want to be in charge, so how can we negotiate this? It is often hard for two people who are alike to figure out where to draw the line. It takes time. I want to have a talk with you both later in order to help you figure it out, but right now I’ll let the rest of the group have a saying.”
- How can we talk openly with the children and teenagers about the challenges of control and boundaries that we can see they are struggling with and how can we guide them?
Group 3: Confidentiality and intimacy
- Where do we see the children and youth make attempts to get closer and more confidential relations?
- What behaviour can be perceived as attempts to create intimacy and confidentiality?
- Where do we see the children and youth differ in their needs for opening up and showing their feelings? How do others in the group react if someone opens up about something that has significance for them?
- Ideas: How can we describe the children’s strategies and promote a suitable degree of openness and perceive their attempts as positive?
- For example: “ I think you long for someone to talk to about intimate matters. But you are probably not used to people showing interest in your thoughts. As a result, you don’t say much and it is difficult to see how you feel. So if I see you laugh or hear you tell how you feel, I’ll be glad.” Or “ When X said that about her mom and tears came to her eyes, Y and Z laughed at her and called her weak. It is often frightening to talk about intimate issues, but it is important that we create a room where it is possible to speak openly about what matters. Otherwise we end up with an environment where only jokes and gossip are welcome. So how can we create a space where everybody feels secure enough to share their feelings?”
- How can we talk openly with the children and teenagers about the challenges of intimacy and distance that we can see them struggling with and how can we guide them?
3 x 5 minutes: each group presents the main points from their discussion.