This is the second of a two part blog discussing how social workers and other practitioners can successfully engage and interact with children. I believe the application can be made to individuals across the life course, but this blog focuses on children!
According to the Oxford dictionary to engage, in this context, is to occupy or attract someone’s interest or attention; while to interact is for someone to do something in such a way that has an effect on them and the other person.
The first part of this blog talks about the importance of getting engagement right when working with children. This part of the blog talks about how positive engagement can naturally lead to sustainable interaction that will support work with children.
In this part of the blog we’re going to think about how we can, over even a short period of time, fuse positive engagement with positive interaction. This will aid future work in being fruitful, exciting and empowering for both the child and you.
Now that rapport and positive engagement has been established, you want to start cementing positive interaction that will support ongoing work. If the child is bombarded with questions, if there is no playfulness during that first meeting or if the child isn’t even acknowledged, this can make it difficult for future sessions. So, I would recommend playful and interaction not specific the reason for the session to start off with. A move into the areas that need to be covered can come afterwards. The timing of when you make that move is dependent on variables, such as the length of time you have to work with the child, the time of day, the age and ability of the child. Set the scene and foundation so the child gets a taster of what’s to come and so they will be left looking forward to seeing you again; not frightened or ambivalent. I always let the children that I work with know when they will see me next and together we think about what games we are going to play to start the session. Children’s understanding of space and time differs greatly to that of an adult, so it’s important they they are supported to understand what’s happening every step of the way.
Children are the most playful beings, so having even a small treasure chest of practical aids to hand can help us as practitioners to develop our creative and playful side, while maximise the experience being safe, positive and fun for the child. Don’t forget, it is important to have items that can be used to engage children with special needs or disabilities too.
This is a small sample of my treasure chest :O)
Ok, I hear some of you say, “This is all well and good if your work involves seeing the child over a period of time or when you’re talking to them about positive things in their life; but what about when you’re seeing them in an emergency situation, when you need particular information from them straight away or when you have to tackle issues such as abuse?”. I believe that the same sequence of practice described above can and should be used in the same way, regardless to the frequency of visits or the reason for the visit. In order for your engagement and interaction with children to be successful you must be prepared, creative and willing to invest spending the time with that child and their family.
I believe that interaction and engagement go hand in hand and that they are an art form; not a science. Mindful creativity is the key to successful interaction and engagement with individuals, especially children; and practical aids go a long way in helping us as practitioners to be dynamic, flexible and respectful when working with individuals. My experience has taught be that these ingredients are crucial to achieving the best results for the children and families I work with!
Take the ‘Practice Challenge’ by learning and trying 3 new ways of engaging individuals that you see regularly; and leave a comment below on how this has made positive changes to the outcome of your work and their lives. :O)
If you would like to know and learn more about how to develop and successfully be a practitioner who uses ‘Mindful Creativity’, why not attend the training.
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