What to do when a young person confides in you

Are you a safe adult in a young person’s life? Here are some tips on what to do if they share something important with you.

Sometimes, young people need a safe adult to talk to about what’s happening in their lives. If you are that person, it can be hard to know what to say and do if the young person confides in you. Depending on the information they give you, there may be different actions you need to take. Here are some things you can do to help if a young person comes to you to discuss something important:

Tip #1: Listen carefully

It’s important to listen to the young person without passing judgment. Be present and listen closely to what they’re telling you. Let the young person know you believe what they’re saying. Keep the line of communication open by reassuring them that it’s OK to talk to you about anything.

Tip #2: Ask questions

Ask the young person questions about what they’ve shared with you. Try to stick with open-ended questions so you can understand the issue further. You can say, “Take your time. What happened from the beginning?” or “How does this make you feel?”

Tip #3: Stay calm

It’s important to try and stay calm and collected, no matter what the young person tells you. Go slow, try to keep an open mind and take breaks if you or the young person needs to throughout the conversation.

Tip #4: Explore solutions

Remind the young person that they’re not alone and there is help available. Ask them what they are hoping will come out of your conversation. Are they looking for a solution or for you to just listen? You can offer to do some research with them, introduce them to a counselling resource like Kids Help Phone or support them in sharing this information with family. (Kids Help Phone’s Resources Around Me tool may be a good place to start looking for additional support.)

Tip #5: Make sure the young person is safe

If the young person discloses a potentially harmful situation to you, it’s important to get help for them right away. If they are in immediate danger, it’s essential to call 911 or the emergency services in your area. You may also have a duty to report child abuse or neglect to your local child protection services. You can check the laws in your province to learn more or inquire with the local child protection agency to better understand your obligation.

When a young person shares something with you, it’s always important to listen, be there and get help when you or the young person needs it.