By Fergal Barr
• Always be prepared to laugh at and make fun of yourself – young people appreciate an adult that is prepared to do this – they tend to think this person is ok!
• Always greet young people with a smile – it can set the tone for them and you!
• Make sure the humour you use is equal to the relationship you have with the person you are engaging with – they must understand where you are going with it and be ok with it.
• When you use humour, you are making it ok for others to use it, but it might not be the kind of humour you expect or respect, so prepare yourself – not how to react, but how to respond. Your response will be key, particularly for any young person that might not understand your boundaries or expectations.
• Don’t make young people the joke because you can and/or it’s easy for you.
• When young people try to use humour to belittle or put you down, ‘embrace’ and use it to your advantage. By taking ownership of their humour you can turn the situation around and create a new situation which leads to a better outcome.
• Don’t interpret every act of humour as an attempt to get at you – for some it’s a defence mechanism and is all they know.
• Be prepared to challenge certain kinds of humour if it crosses ethical boundaries – explain why you are challenging it and what the issue with it is.
• Help young people to explore humour and understand the implications of it if it is misused.
• Your humour should only be used to care for the person you’re trying to work with. It’s designed to lighten the moment, put a smile on their face and be enjoyed by them. It can offer perspectives they might not have thought about and is based around the relationship you already have with them.
You can email Fergal Barr on: firstname.lastname@example.org