As an individual who has worked with young people for over 7 years now, some of the young people you will come into contact with may be more vulnerable than others and have a wide range of needs, some more serious than others. And These needs could stem from a number of risky behaviors that influence their personal life. Some of these may include;
- The development of that young person, including their emotional and social development, behavioural development
- Identity, including self-esteem and self image
- Health, Including their general health, physical development, or speech and language
- Family and home life, such as family breakdown, negative reputation, unemployment and financial issues
- Educational issues
- Negative peer influence
The impact of these factors could increase the possibility of that young person engaging in negative behaviour, such as offending / anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, poor self care, inappropriate sexual behaviour, having mental health issues, poor attendance at school.
This type of behaviour could have a harmful impact on that young persons future, and we, as peer educators want to encourage and support young people to achieve positive outcomes, therefore, we should be making every effort to reduce any negative factors.
Will give a case of Rech A Hand Uganda Peer Educators who undergo the Peer Educator Academy can contribute to reducing these negative factors, I believe that Peer Educators are one of the best placed practitioners to begin the process of supporting the young person in addressing many of these factors due to the voluntary nature of their relationship.
Peer Educators need to take advantage of this position when planning and delivering their provision, by not only catering to the wants of the young people, but also incorporating elements which can contribute to providing their needs.
What’s that the Young person wants or needs?
The Young People today in Uganda are confronted every day with media messages from every angle telling them that they need some type of new goods or product to improve their lives and make them more likeable or acceptable by society. This has caused the line between what we want and what we truly need to become distorted.
Also, our desire for what we want is much greater than the desire for what we need. The want is usually impulsive and selfish, but the need is usually suppressed and concealed. The want is usually a short term fix, while the need is often deep rooted and difficult to deal with.
Many times I have seen Peer Educators who were unable or unwilling to make that distinction between a want and a need and make the mistake of continually providing a young person or group’s wants in an attempt to win favour with them.
This is often done with the best of intentions and a desire to do the best for the young people; however, it has often backfires, creating a sense of entitlement, ingratitude and can be seen to reward or reaffirm negative behaviour.
Let’s strike the Balance using the Want/Need Window Theory
This is a theory done by Tony Brown and its described as below
Low Want, Low Need; The service or provision offered does not offer anything that the young person feels they want or need at that particular time in there life.
Response; It will be very difficult, if not impossible to get that young person to voluntarily engage in that service.
High Want, Low Need; The service or provision that is on offer is something that the young person really wants to do, however, that provision will not supply any of their needs.
Response; The young person will happily engage when they choose to, however, this could be a missed opportunity to begin to address some of the underlying issues.
Low Want, High Need; The service or provision that is on offer is something that the young person does not want to participate in; however, it will support some of their needs.
Response; The Young person may, with enough encouragement, engage voluntarily; however, they might need a lot of support to remain engaged. This support could be in the form of a key worker or a peer mentor, or simply allowing them to bring a friend along to the initial sessions.
High Want, High Need; The provision that is on offer is something that the young person really wants to do and also includes an element of support directed towards their needs.
Response; It is very likely that the young person will engage voluntarily with very little persuading and will remain engaged throughout the length of the project.
This is the balance you want to achieve; I am very aware that this balance is not always achievable; however, the aim is to consider these factors when addressing risky behaviors among young people.
Additional content from Youth Work Toolbox