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Approaches to Providing Support

Relationship-building approaches are techniques you can integrate into program or classroom activities. They also can be worked into the informal interactions you have with young people in the hallway, after class, on the playground, along the hiking trail, or on the front steps while they wait for a ride home.

Finding the right balance to provide support can sometimes be tricky. Some people offer to help and then take over. Or they don’t offer help, waiting to see if the person can do it by themselves, and that person ends up quitting completely out of utter discouragement. But when you get the balance right, they know they “did it,” and you know they can do it the next time, probably with less help from you.

Relational Practice

Approaches to Providing Support

Resource Audience


Resource Type

Relational Practice

Read Time

Under 5 Minutes



Try following the “I do, we do, you do” process to support youth learning something new. That process is: First, model it for them. Then do it together. Then, empower them to try on their own. (Bonus: Ask them to teach it to someone else.)

Make sure all young people have the material things they need to be successful, whether it’s a snack, a pencil, or financial support. Think about ways you can directly provide resources to young people, or connect them with people or places where they can access the resources they need.

Help young people recognize and counteract ways that they might get in their own way when they feel frustrated, like negative self-talk, giving up, or shutting down. Help them find a new way to look at a difficult situation when they feel discouraged.

When a young person seems to get “off track” and isn’t reaching their goals, take time to talk to them and remind them of what they set out to achieve. Let them know you want to see them get back on track and know they can do it.

When young people are working hard on a task (especially—though not only—when they are struggling with it), ask them how they are feeling and validate. Or if validation isn’t appropriate, acknowledge their feelings.

Talk through difficult situations or tasks with the young person. Help them identify what their options are, and what the consequences of different choices might be. Help them identify which aspects they can handle on their own and which aspects might require support from you or someone else.

Support a young person navigating a conflict by creating a strategy together for approaching a difficult conversation. Use role play to help them practice their strategy and what they want to say. Many young people need help learning how to ask for help.

Proactively let young people know that they can come and talk to you whenever they want or need to talk.

Stand in solidarity with people experiencing prejudice and discrimination and invite others to do the same. When you notice a young person experiencing discrimination, let them know you see them. Speak up against the discrimination and make space for them to speak up as well—empower them by giving them choice in how you respond.

When a young person has made important progress on a difficult task or challenge, mention that progress to their family or other staff and invite them to join you in encouraging the young person to continue moving ahead.