Dealing with sensitive issues
Some issues, like relationships, grief or illness, may be distressing and confronting for young people. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you're talking about sensitive issues in a classroom session or group meeting.
Think about whether any of the group might be at risk of becoming upset because of their own experience or background. Talk to colleagues about the topic. They may offer useful suggestions, and later you may want to share your experiences with someone else. If you're in a school, talk to your school counsellor before the class and find out what support is available for students.
Introduce the topic
If possible, tell the group in advance about what you will be discussing in the next class or meeting, for example grief and loss, or emotional well being. Tell them that these topics may cause some people to become upset, and that the group will need to be supportive and show respect for others. Invite students to come and see you or a school counsellor in private if they have any worries about the topic.
Guide the discussion
Establish and enforce rules for the session which create a supportive environment where issues can be discussed safely. Students may not agree with each other, but they will need to respect the views and feelings of others.
Be prepared to interrupt the discussion and guide it in a more positive direction. Challenge any comments which might be upsetting for others, such as abusive language, jokes, or negative stereotypes.
If someone does become upset, set a task for the rest of the group and speak quietly with him or her. Give them a chance to leave the room and go to the nurse, school counsellor, or an agreed quiet space, until they are ready to come back. Suggest that a friend can go with them. Always follow up with the young person afterwards to see if they need further support.