The increase in social problems like drug addiction and alcoholism starts out often with people who get lured to it at a very young age. They hit the at-risk youths most badly compared to most people. At-risk youths in themselves are already replete with trust issues. Reaching out to them may seem a tall order for you, but it really possible with the consistent use of the following steps:
- Respect the hierarchy of needs first. You cannot expect them to be open to learning about values or amending addictive habits if they do not have clothing or roofs above their heads. Provide for the basic needs first, but don't make your group a sole source of them. The goal is still to teach them to be independent, so make sure that you provide just the needed physical support that will not make them overly dependent on you.
- Be open. Building trust with at-risk youths starts when they see you as a person who understands and is not a threat. You have to be open. They may have habits that are not like yours, so at least learn to overlook some faults. Also, you might want to pattern your approach with the manner that best appeals to them. It might help to loosen up if you are too formal, among many other things.
- Clearly mark boundaries. Though you are willing to open up and accommodate their preferences, there will still be boundaries. Make sure you are able to communicate this to them. Also, make sure you know what boundaries they have too, and work around that.
- Keep your promises. When you say you will do something with them, make sure you keep that promise. This way, they will not be disappointed. They will learn to trust you if you are able to deliver what you promise or exceed their expectations.
- Listen to what they are saying and what they are not saying. Body language, tone of voice and the content of the words itself are the things you need to listen to very intently. You might learn volumes just by having an hour of listening to these cues than engaging them in activities for a week or month.
- Be very sincere. People generally have the inner compass that tells them if the person is sincere to them or not. You need to be as sincere as possible. Purify your intentions for reaching out to them before you actually go out and interact with them.
- Always remember that patience is the ultimate virtue. Trust takes time to earn. You need to invest a lot of effort and time to really convince them that you are not their enemy.
At-risk youths will really benefit from more efforts to understand them fully. Power can often be seen in numbers. Good psychology training may also empower you to meet them in their needs and situation, therefore helping you establish good relations with them. It is very rewarding, and whatever trust you have earned you may be able to pass on to other people with similar desires of reaching out to the at-risk youth.