5 things to keep in mind when counselling juveniles


Butterflies and Tulir – Center for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse organized a workshop on Can We Teach These Kids to Dance: Developmental Treatment Model for Addressing Sexual Behaviour Problems in Youth’ in New Delhi. It was facilitated by Prof. Kevin Creeden, Director of Assessment and Research at the Whitney Academy in East Freetown, MA. USA.  

Dealing with juveniles is a complex terrain to tread on, especially if you are involved in counselling them. A lot of handholding is required to bring them back to the mainstream, for them to lead a ‘normal’ life.

So here are a few points from the workshop that needs to be kept in mind.

1.Once a criminal, does not mean always a criminal.

It’s always circumstances that make one. We always think of criminals in a certain way and when it is a juvenile, our usual response is the world is moving from bad to worse. What future do we have in store for us? But what we forget to think about is why did a kid do that? We need to talk about the ‘why’ to the juvenile involved. And create favourable circumstances for the kid to be able to rehabilitate.



2.Talk to them in a language they understand, make sure they get what you are saying.

Language is the most important tool to communicate without which understanding each other would be a problem. And even when we are speaking the same language, there are times that things do not get across in the way we think we are talking. For ex: Prof Kevin once had a very violent kid under him who used to beat his roommate up. During repeated sessions, Kevin had to ask him to stop hitting his roommate because it’s not a good thing to hit people and be so violent. The kid eventually did stop hitting his roommate but just after the session he went out and beat a staff member from the Centre. In the next session when Kevin asked him why did he do so, the kid’s response was, “We never had this discussion Kevin! All we discussed was that I should not hit my roommate!”



3.Inculcate other methods like arts, sports, athletics and don’t just simply talk.

Talking makes things boring. It’s the lecture mode that needs to be made more fun. Arts, colours, crayons, music and athletics can be used to engage better with kids. It does not seem strenuous, it becomes playtime, you get to build trust and the class dynamics changes. The language barrier gets done away with and things become easier to interpret. Also because the kids do not wish to talk about things that have happened to them. Through art, sports and music, they get to give vent to their views.


4. Reward and Punishment

Set a ground rule. For example, if you do good, you will get a chocolate. But if you do not behave, you will have to face the consequences. Being good to kids doesn’t mean you do not discipline them. Without knowing that there are consequences to a certain act, to being violent, they might keep committing acts of violence. Informing them that there are certain things that are acceptable in the society and there are certain things which are not makes them understand their situation better. Rewarding for good motivates them at the same time.


5.Pay attention to their need.

A child stole something from a shop? What was it? Food. What made him steal? Hunger!

So what does the child need? Food

Do not concentrate on their behaviour alone but look for what they need. Do they need adult’s attention, a home where they can live, a safe environment where they can sleep in peace. A need based analysis of the situation helps in dealing better.


Professor Creeden and his centre takes measures to ensure that the kid does well after he is out. They keep track of the kids and their present lives. There are cases where he has been in touch with them for more than 26 years now. It involves a lot of care and concern. It just made all of us wonder if India’s Juvenile Justice system even has an infrastructure in place to do this.

It was a good start to an important conversation nonetheless!

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