I have been on the team as a Youth Development Worker for nearly a year now. I have seen a whole academic year of sessions in the three schools and interacted with hundreds of young people in those classes. What a privilege to be able to give those young people an opportunity to talk about stuff that they might not get to elsewhere. This feels especially important in the light of growing mental health awareness and the importance of sharing and processing things (#ItsOkNotToBeOk , #selfawareness etc.).
The 2018/19 academic year has brought lots of sessions with young people reviewing relationships and covering subjects like consent, inclusion, prevention from harm and friendships.
Our work with S2 pupils (12-14) on Positive Relationships is very rewarding. Reminding young people that they have power to make their own decisions regarding what kind of friend they are and even who they have relationships with. Our discussions around peer pressure are brilliant, and we have had significant moments of telling young people that if friends force you to do something that you don’t want to do, they are not real friends!
Particularly interesting has been our inclusion of Social Media exercises, reflecting on the good and bad influence this has on young people. It often is not effective to lecture them of the negative impact, but to encourage them to look back on what they have learnt either personally or anecdotally.
Our S4 sessions on Pornography are welcomed by Guidance Teachers, pornography is a subject that is not often covered during PSE in schools, but comes up often in pastoral work. Especially our discussions around pornography’s impact on people’s perceptions of sexual relationships. Sadly in our day and age, many young people (whether intentionally or not) base their understanding of sexual relationships i.e. what is normal/what is wanted, on what they have seen in pornographic material. Sessions which encourage those young people to separate ‘pornography’ and ‘real life’ will hopefully result in healthier relationships, improved self-confidence and self-image.
And that is what we want to see at Choices Aberdeen. Generations of young people experiencing healthy relationships, both with those around them and with their own bodies.
Benjamin Clift, Youth Development Worker, Choices Aberdeen
At Choices we are just one part of a greater picture, made up of different organisations across Scotland who are working together to serve and transform their local communities. In April we were given a glimpse of this picture, when we were invited by Care for Scotland to attend the Serve Scotland Parliamentary Event in Edinburgh. This was a fantastic chance to share more about what we do, to learn about the work of charities across Scotland, to encourage each other and meet our MSPs.
We took banners and flyers, but the centrepiece of our display was our lip-balm stand, where delegates and guests could have a go at making their own lip-balm. We use this, as well as other creative activities, to promote out work and to facilitate our relationships both with youth and creative therapy support groups. Doing something practical and creative is a great way to forge relationships and open up discussion, and we find that making lip-balm is a really simple way to get people talking. This went down a treat in Edinburgh, with lots of the MSPs having a go.
This was a real time of celebration and we felt so encouraged by the great work going on across Scotland, and privileged to be able to share what we do at our Parliament. We are really grateful to Care and Serve Scotland, and hope to build on the great contacts made during the event.
To request a lip-balm making event, or to find out more about creative therapy, email us at email@example.com.
There is a great need in Aberdeen to reach young people who are disengaged from education and employment, and who are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. There are numerous organisations doing invaluable different in the city to provide opportunities and empower these young people, and at Choices we believe that we are enabled to do the best work we can when we collaborate with these organisations.
We had the privilege of such a collaboration with the Princes Trust in earlier this year. Based at the Aberdeen Foyer, the Princes Trust run their ‘Team’ program for 16-25 year olds, with the aim of building confidence, boosting employability and gaining work experience. We were asked to provide a workshop on the topics of self-esteem, relationships, peer pressure and assertiveness. Learning to cultivate high self-esteem and assertiveness is hugely valuable both in the workplace and wider life, and we were keen to help the group to develop these skills.
Since most of our work is with the 11-16 age bracket, it was an exciting challenge to design a session for an older age group. The group were eager to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, and were able to open up about how hard they sometimes found it to think about their skills and achievements. We discussed the transitions between platonic and romantic relationships, and whether friendship was a good foundation for a romantic relationship. By the end of the session the group had a good grasp of assertiveness and were able to demonstrate how they would put this new skill into practice.
Feedback from the group was positive, and the group leader described the delivery as ‘informed, informative and engaging.’ The group were a pleasure to work with, and have provided us with good insight into how to tailor our schools programs to work with partner organisations. Furthermore, this has strengthened our links with the Princes Trust and the Aberdeen Foyer, and we look forward to doing more partnership work with these fantastic organisations in the future.
From Helen, one of our Relationship Revolution team
Many will know Shmu as the local radio station that brings music and topical discussion to Aberdeen listeners throughout the week. Their radio station is in fact just one of the tools they use to regenerate local communities and equip young people with life skills. I was invited to visit the Positive Transitions team run by Shmu, to give them a taste of what we do and discuss relationships with the young people.
Positive Transitions is a 12 week course for 16-19 year olds, during which the young people gain employability skills and qualifications in various aspects of media production. I was asked to provide a session for them on the topic of relationships, body image and the media, and the proposed date turned out to be on Valentine’s Day. What better day to get talking about relationships!
The group had a lot to say, and quickly fired up some healthy debate about the priorities in a relationship, and the role of school and family in influencing decision making in relationships. The ability of the group to express their own opinions and respect those of others was super encouraging. We moved on to talk about the media, and the group again had a lot to say about the skewed presentation of relationships and body image across social media and advertising. It was great to see such awareness, and it was a privilege to be able to add to this and encourage greater media literacy.
After our discussion the young people demonstrated how to put together and deliver a radio show in record time. They do this once a week, but this was only the third time that most of them had appeared on the radio, and it was plain to see how quickly they had picked up the required skills to do this successfully. I was nervous when I learned that they planned to interview me as part of the show, but the group put me at my ease, and it was great to share about what I do on air. The group also presented some of the ideas they had discussed in the session, in between some of their favourite tunes. This experience was a first for me, and its success marks the continuation of a great partnership between Shmu and Choices.
Following the successful delivery of a program called Bounce in Torry Academy, we were delighted to be approached by St Machar Academy to provide a similar program for a small mixed group of S2s. These workshops focus on building resilience, coping with negative emotions and thinking positively about the future, which are essential life skills, especially for young people with behavioural or academic difficulties.
This gave the Relationship Revolution team a unique opportunity to work alongside the therapeutic listening team. Together we decided to deliver several creative therapy sessions, using art and design to develop topics such as anger and relationships with others, followed by a program of Bounce, which was tailored specifically to focus on managing anger and coping positively with failure.
Working with this group was one of the most challenging and also the rewarding experiences I have had whilst working for Choices. We learnt the importance of getting to know each group member individually, and of tailoring the material to their particular academic and emotional needs. Having begun by being highly disruptive and disrespectful to one another, by the end of our time with them the group were able to work together and think more positively about their abilities, allowing them to grow in self-confidence and mutual respect. The creative sessions using clay and painting were particularly successful, as they allowed the each young person to think about the different relationships in their lives and how they fit in with the group. My highlight was the final session, when we plotted plans and hopes for the future, and each member was able to form aspirations and hopes for themselves. Feedback from the school staff noted ‘a marked improvement’ in the whole group, and recognised the success of ‘empowering pupils to see how people can deal with negative situations in a successful way.’
It was a privilege to take a program that had been such a success in one of our partner schools and see it also working well in a different environment, and our hope is that we will continue to deliver similar programs within St Machar.
At Choices we love to encourage and equip young people to reach their full potential and one of the ways we do this is by promoting resilience so that they can ‘bounce back’ from the difficulties that life throws at us. We believe resilience is key to ALL members of society but psychologists have stressed the importance of resilience for those who live in high-risk environments.
Our team created a 6 week resilience course designed initially, for boys. After the third course was underway, the school approached us asking if we could do the same for girls, so I had the pleasure of running the FIRST EVER Girls Bounce.
The course covered self-awareness and reflective thinking; the difference between thoughts and feelings and how they can be managed; success and failure through re-framing failure as a concept; thinking about the future and who can help us to get what we want; and recognising and valuing our own skills and abilities.
There were many memorable moments and high points throughout the six weeks we had together. Firstly, Bounce brought together eight girls who wouldn’t normally spend time together and developed friendships and teamwork amongst the girls. One of my favourite moments was seeing the girls supporting each other and working together to achieve a common goal which would not have happened during the first week. It was such a privilege to see the girls grow and develop over the course and it was apparent that none of the girls wanted it to end. The girls expressed a new found confidence in themselves and their abilities as well and increased self-esteem and a wider support network.
Our hope is that we will be able to roll out this course across all the schools we work with overtime.
How do you learn?
Perhaps some of us assume learning happens instinctively, like a baby starting to speak or taking its first steps: we’re just sponges soaking up the information around us. And while this might have been true in the first years of our development, learning as a young person or adult requires a more thoughtful, intentional approach.
The Relationship Revolution youth work team had an excellent meeting with board director and school head teacher Neil Hendry on August 7th about learning and lesson planning for young people. Discussing how to put together a well-organized and effective lesson was a great refresher for all of us on the Relationship Revolution team.
No matter what you’re learning about, a clear, intentionally organized and well-prepared lesson can go miles to help you retain knowledge, and what subject could be more important than sex and relationships? We trust that these kind of trainings – alongside our own careful lesson-planning – will make the Relationship Revolution Team even more effective and engaging as we reach out to young people in Aberdeen!