At Phase Trust, we have the privilege of meeting many children and young people, each with their own individual needs. Often, we get introduced into their lives when adults around them are concerned about what they see.

They may see a child misbehaving in class, a young person going missing from home, a teenager’s change in friends or a pupil displaying harmful sexual behaviour. Whatever it may be, when we know that something isn’t right most of us feel the pressure to ‘fix’ things and to do so as soon as possible. This instinct usually comes from a good place, only wanting the best for our children and young people, however this pressure can sometimes fall onto those very children. We talk to them about the consequences of negative behaviours, and the risks associated with certain choices and can then expect them to simply change and do the ‘right thing’. After all, as adults when we find out something is bad for us or we could face consequences for our actions we stop and change don’t we?… Hmm, if only it was that simple.

We frequently hear the phrase ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, don’t we? Usually when someone has a feeling that there is more going on than what is visible to us. The truth is for all of us, including our children and young people, our actions and behaviours are exactly that, the tip of the iceberg. Are we willing to look below the surface?

Hidden below the surface is the rest of an enormous iceberg, made up of our thoughts and feelings. Our thinking may include conscious dialogue we have with ourselves every day, positive and negative thoughts that impact how we are then feeling or even some we don’t acknowledge and haven’t processed. The important thing is though, what we think isn’t always truth! These thoughts and feelings are influenced by the stuff at the bottom of the ocean. Our experiences, our environment, our people, our story and how we interpret all of it. It is when we start looking beyond what we can see, that we begin to realise it takes a lot more effort from our part to try and understand what is impacting a child or young person’s iceberg.

I feel so lucky to meet many unique and wonderful young people, each with their own ‘stuff’ usually hidden deep for nobody to find. Being given the opportunity to explore amongst the stuff with them is an amazing privilege and one that I don’t take lightly. When a child or young person trusts us enough to brings some of their stuff to the surface its puts them in such a vulnerable place, that can feel uncomfortable and at times painful. Again, this isn’t stuff we are there to just fix and make better, most of it we can’t. Instead, our relationship with them is based on consistently listening. By taking the time to acknowledge and understand, doesn’t mean we ignore or agree with something harmful that’s happening today but there is so much power in taking the time to listen to what is true for them. By doing so, we have the chance to become part of their ‘stuff’ and influence some of their thoughts and what they believe to be true. We shouldn’t be aiming to just be chipping away at the ‘tip of the iceberg’ but instead give our children and young people hope that their iceberg can look different.

Charlene Cowdell
Female Exploitation Lead, Phase Trust