Tools for Your Heart and Spirit

Tools for your heart and Spirit may sound strange, but if you’re going to be effective as a professional who works with children and teens, you’ll need more than acquiring professional credentials. (Don’t get me wrong, formal qualifications are important too, but here I’m talking about stuff they just don’t teach you in class/college or grad school, etc.)

Please consider the following items as tidbits, tips or suggestions to consider thinking about and possibly implementing on your own:

Carving by Karin Sprague

What is it that really holds you in this work as a therapist, counselor, youth coach or teacher? Where does your “juice for the journey come from?  Is it the money? (Don’t laugh!) We hope that it’s never the money. Do you like children and or teens, enough to consider it a career and endure the bumps along the way? What things do you do to balance out your life besides work? What charges your batteries so that you can show up on Monday for another week of dealing with what comes?

Who inspires you? Who inspires you to be better at what you do with young people? Have you ever jotted down on paper some things that you wished you could do better or more effectively with young people? (It helps to be honest with where our strengths are and are not.) Once we’ve done that, the next step is to determine if we need to increase our skill sets in these “deficit” areas, or, come to terms that some things are just better done by other colleagues and workmates.

Think for a moment about the look and feel of your work environment, the place where you work directly with young people. How does it feel? What are the colors and how are they working? How is the energy in your space? The quality and angles of light, etc? What have children and/or teens said about your office, your workplace? Does your workplace “speak” and have a welcoming feel to it?

Have you a corner, a box, a desk, a shelf or some little spot that’s all yours in your workplace that children know as “your stuff” and leave it alone? It could be a little plastic toolbox kept with personal items, from little snacks, wipes, nail clippers and so forth, to little keepsakes that you’ve saved for reading and viewing now and then. We teach the importance of self care to young people when we show them which things are theirs to have access to, and that this box or shelf is only for you. I share 99% of my total workspace with clients and group members, but keep a little box that’s labeled “Kevin’s Stash.” It makes me smile when I hear one teen say to another, “Hey, that’s Kevin’s stash. Stay out of there!”

I have a stack of about a hundred 4×6 index cards onto which I’ve pasted quotes, sayings, jokes, cartoons and riddles. I’ve had these so long now that the corners are furled and yellowed. Sometimes I use them in groups, or with a client. But every now and then I go through them and read them myself. As the saying goes, “Wasted time is usually good soul time.” You could start your stack today!

Is being connected to something bigger and greater than you important, as in faith of some kind? If so, are you attentive to it, nurture it, and call on it to sustain you in your work? And by faith or belief, I’m not talking solely about religion that’s practiced in the Judeo-Christian traditions and understanding of faith. Inspiration and strength can come from many places, from trees and rocks, to being near bodies of water, to seeing a sunrise or sunset and from paying attention to color and sounds and music. However it comes for you, be sure to keep it coming, because you deserve it.

I’ll end this article with three sayings that have served me well to remember throughout my professional career:

  • I am not the center of the universe.
  • (When dealing with intractable people, ask yourself) “Do I want to die on this hill today?
  • (My daily personal reminder) LIVE YOUR LIFE IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

Text and photo by Kevin Lee
“Yes” Stone Carving by Karin Sprague

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