Longtime child services professional Kearney provides concrete, practical strategies in this guide to working with children and young adults ages 6 to 18.
Few would argue that working in youth development, whether in a paid or volunteer capacity, is an easy job. The awareness of children’s needs and interests requires patience, compassion and, crucially, extensive training, which many in the field do not receive. Kearney’s resource fills that gap by offering clear instruction to anyone involved in youth programs, including tutors, counselors, youth ministers and group leaders. (The introduction provides an extensive list of intended readers.) The book’s unfussy organization—with sections arranged by age and broken down into physical, cognitive, social and emotional development—ensures quick access to relevant information. The topics covered range from a child’s self-evaluation to peer influence, gender relations, language skills, appearance and group dynamics. While there’s a consistent message of positivity, the advice and activities are far from monotonous. Instead, Kearney supplies specific tools applicable to distinctive age groups. For instance, whereas those working with children ages 6 to 8 are encouraged to help develop motor skills through appropriate computer games, individuals working with 15- to 18-year-olds will find tips pertaining to texting etiquette and cyberbullying. Elsewhere, the generality of advice such as “teach younger children how to resolve conflicts” and “offer nutrition and cooking activities” allows interpretation and creativity. Children “mature at different rates and possess different temperaments,” Kearney says, which means that those working with youth require flexibility for any sort of structured, activity-based program. Given the wide scope of the book, some of the advice is necessarily broad, but as Kearney notes before introducing a helpful selection of further resources, this “is a starting point, not an endpoint.”
A valuable instructional resource for anyone invested in understanding and helping young people.