Let's Play a Game:
Imagine yourself as a youth practitioner, closely building relationships with young people in your work setting. You think that our sexual behaviours, feelings, and relationship stick to your religious beliefs. You don’t support any intimacy before marriage, and you are only cheering for opposite-sex marriages. A young girl at age 15 comes to you and discloses that she is in love with her female friend in school and that she has fantasies about how her first date and intimate relationship should look like. She felts a bit insecure about her sexuality, but she feels that she likes this girl. She is asking you to give her advice and tips on sex and relationships. Firstly, you are shocked, but this is a part of your weekly coaching, building her self-esteem, and guiding her to make positive choices in her life and you must take this meeting. You schedule a meeting with this young girl, what would you say to her?
(You may find the answer at the end of this article.)
Sexuality is a hot topic in youth work settings and projects that involve children and young people. According to studies, children and young people have a right to receive accurate information on matters that affect them. Consequently, they are entitled to receive an education that informs them about sex and relationships. Again, depending on the context, every youth worker may think about it differently and approach this education differently. However, should our personal views influence young people's choices and education?
“As the UK’s largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women, the Guide Association believes that it has a responsibility to respond positively to the relationship and sex education needs of young women today, and the issues that they face."
According to the recently published forum fact sheet on Delivering sex and relationships education within the youth service, youth workers and practitioners should follow at least these guidelines:
Is this young person likely to begin or continue having sex with or without contraception?
If they don’t receive either contraceptive treatment or advice, is their mental or physical health, or both, likely to suffer?
Is it in their best interests to get some advice or condoms from you?
Have they understood the information you have given them including the consequences of their choices?
Have you talked to them about telling their parents or guardian about what they are doing?
The Answer (You May Not Be Expecting)
No, you should not try to influence young people by your choices and your identity. Youth work is a profession with standards and values which supposed to professionalise the field, improve, develop, and nurture young people’s choices, identities, self-development, and growth. What means to develop, and nurture someone’s being depends on the context and the situation. Ideally, there should not be a place for judgement and should be a lot of places for self-reflection and professionalism in youth work, community centres, organisations, and projects. Your personal preferences and private identity should not influence young people's sexuality and choices. All you can do is provide a safe space for young people to talk about emotions, and sexuality and advise them to be safe and make conscious decisions.