Simple but important steps toward positive development

Feeling safe is base for development

A lot of people have the need to develop themselves. When a person does not possess this need themselves, often they are helped by others from their environment. This support, in this case, comes from family, friends and professionals.

Feeling safe is an important condition for development. When, for example, you are being bullied, don't feel welcome, you don't feel like you belong somewhere or others don't let you finish your sentences and keep interrupting you, chances are you start to feel unsafe. Possibly you are starting to become more alert of your surroundings, which means your focus will be shifted to your social life instead of on development.

Evert van den Akker
Evert van den Akker

Some thoughts for professionals

As professionals, do we pay attention to whether or not someone feels welcome and is comfortable? It's a matter of the 'less important things' that place on a daily basis. ''Good morning - thank you for coming today'' - listening to someone when they're speaking their mind - let others finish their thoughts instead of filling them in for them - looking further than what's on the surface - don't judge (too quickly). These issues, on their own, seem irrelevant, but when they are often neglected, it can influence one's emotional state and thus personal development.

In my youth, education/development was generally focused on learning new things. Grammar, algebra etc. are to be learned from books and notebooks. I was confronted with what I didn't know or was capable of and believe me, that was a lot. I started losing confidence, which had all sorts of adverse effects.

Caring increases positive development

During my years as a care worker and teacher, I was introduced to a different kind of development: 'natural learning'. Natural learning implies to affiliate with someone's knowledge, talent and interest. By doing this, you increase the chances on a positive development. Next to creating a safe environment, coming in contact with the involved is essential. This means, not just watching and listening, but especially mirroring is a commonly used method.

Importance of smile

In different (creative) ways, you can discover what the other is interested in, where are their passions, what talents they possess or what are the subjects they like telling you about. In short: what puts a smile on one's face. It might not be the things we are passionate about, we know a lot about or where we are interested in. To join the other's world view and perception, to show true involvement, will enhance and improve the personal contact. By mirroring people in an honest way you can show them the valuable characteristics and talents they possess. A smile is often a sign that they are open to learn new things. It can be a time-consuming way of working, but for certain target groups, who know little success and have low self-esteem, it can pay off. It gives them the possibility to create perspective and motivation to become engaged with something contributing to a positive development.


Evert van den Akker

Writer is a retired special needs teacher from Netherlands who has a long experience on working with youth. Evert has worked as volunteer at Nuorten Ystävät and visits them almost every year.