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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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I am interested to learn how many of you in the field of Child and Youth Care practice self-care in your lives.

I am currently a student, majoring in Child and Youth Care Counselling, and am told by many of my professors that we need to constantly take care of ourselves while working in this field, as it can be draining. I am fully aware of that, and understand where they are coming from, however, I find that some of the information you learn through a workplace, or a practicum placement, can stick with you.

For example, I worked a temporary position at a well known company this past spring with children and youth in an after school program. The community I was in was a lower SES area, and many of the children dealt with abuse, financial problems, and much more. Becoming close with the kids, I would become aware of the issues in their life, and worry about their well being outside of the workplace.

I love this field and am not haunted by many of the problems I become aware of, however, sometimes I will think about them, even when I am supposed to be practicing self-care.

From a professional to a student, what do you do for self-care, and how do you deal with issues that just can not seem to go away?

Thank you.

Hayley McComish

Hi Hayley,

My first shift was in 1985 and this weekend just past I worried about certain youth who I know make themselves vulnerable to predatory experiences. I no longer exhaust myself trying to stop worrying about the youth I work with and the colleagues I work with for that matter. I noticed in your post you said you "love this field" usually love doesn't produce that worry. I have seen love in this field confused with infatuation. If that's the case and the love you speak of is an infatuation with being amazing as a worker the answer to stress is easy – stop "loving" it and those feelings of concern for those you work with will diminish significantly. Lower your expectations of yourself and the hopes you have for others, adopt an ambivalent perspective and you will find no resentment and self-care just on the other side of the "love" you speak of. Anything I truly love doesn't have those stressful impacts on me unless I am confusing 'love" with heavy expectations and am infatuated with certain outcomes for myself and others. I will say the answer to pain is growth, and growth comes from having a mentor. The pace set by new workers out of the gates after leaving school then into the field determined to be excellent and change negative experiences for those we serve more often than not results in a racing mind filled with insurmountable outcomes. Sometimes it continues with some of us many years later too. You are not alone.

Ernie Hilton

Good morning,

I have been a front line field worker for five years. I can assure you, transference is a thing. It happens to some more then others, but it happens to everyone. What you're feeling, thinking about them outside of work hours ect., everyone does it. But it's only a problem when it starts to interfere with your daily life. It is perfectly okay to think about them, you are experiencing compassion and it makes me believe you are good at your job. However you can only do so much for others until it starts to wear you down. I know you feel compassion for them and want to make their lives better and wonder how they are doing, but you need to be aware of how it is affecting your own life. Self care is a MUST! Whatever you decide to do, do it, and don’t let you talk yourself out of doing it by thinking about work. Try meditating. I know its kinda corny and not for everyone, but the whole purpose is to learn to control your mind and quiet your mind so you can focus. The 4-7-8 breathing method is a good place to start. And some guided meditation online can be very helpful as well.

Find an activity you like for self care. I suggest some kind of group activity. I play pool with the CPA league. Nobody else there is a Child and Youth Care worker and it gives me adult time and interaction without talking about work {for the most part} and I almost never let work talk me out of it. I actually secured that night of the week off by telling my employer it was a specific self care activity.

It is perfectly natural to feel empathy for the kids we work with. Its not a problem until it becomes a problem if you know what I mean. Make it a practice to have some “you time” at least once a week! Take a bubble bath or extra long hot shower. something to relax your mind and body. You wont notice youre burning out until everyone else knows you are. Prevention is key, as recovery from empathy burnout is quite difficult!

Good luck
Sarah Greenslade

Hello Haley,

For self care, I love shopping and cooking because it makes me forget about my problems. In general, it makes me feel happy. for issues that cannot go away, I write them down on the list, I try to pick one out of 10 to work on it. for example, having 10 assignments to do and I don't know how to start. I will say in one hour, I will do question number 5, then I will play music for 10 minutes as my self care in order to relax my brain. in that way, I am not too worried over my assignment. By doing these, I don't worry myself too much. I feel, I am still happy within me because I have allocated time for each problem.

I hope this helps.

Uduak Benson


I personally struggled with taking items home when I first became a youth care worker over 6 years ago. I however was in a different program at the time where there wasn't much support, so thinking I was just being caring was normal for me as no one was explaining how detrimental this was. After a year I ended up changing organizations and quickly learned that leaving my issues at the door when arriving on shift and leaving work at the door when I was leaving shift was VERY important. I was informed that I would burn out and could end up not enjoying the field that I love so much. So with help of a mentor and co-workers I learned how to do this.

This will take time to figure out how to leave work at work. But I agree with your professors, self care is needed in this field and shouldn't be something that consists of a substance, like drinking a glass of wine, smoking, etc. before and after every shift on my drive I have my music up and just enjoy the music, while still paying attention to the road. I also enjoy my family time and consider that as my self care. But at times a bubble bath, the gym, walking the dog are all other things that I will do. You will find what works for you. Sometimes depending on the situation you will need to learn to adapt what has worked for self care.

Everything takes time to figure out what works best for you. My biggest suggestion is to have a mentor and to trust your team where if something is bothering you, you can discuss the situation with someone and how to move past it. Having supports at work is also important as it is having supports outside of work.

Best of luck :)

Ashley Gibbs

I found that throughout the years I developed the ability to do the best job I can and not get caught up in the things I don't have control over. It has come from lots of self talk, reflection and support from others around me. It helps to have other interests in your life too.

Do the best you can in the moment and leave the work at work when you leave. You will not be beneficial to anyone burnt out from stress.

Jaime Lindenberg


Self care is HUGE in this field. I personally have experienced many things that I just didn’t think I could shake. A couple years ago I lost a client, and that was likely the hardest, most challenging thing I have faced yet. For me, I look to family and friends for support. I do not disclose what exactly is happening, but they know what my job is, and they know the challenges I can face. I am lucky to have a support system that can help me get out of my own head. I also love to keep a hobby, I switch hobbies a lot (slight ADHD), but I find having something to occupy myself can help. Especially when I get home from a particularly challenging day, focusing on something such as beading or coloring can really take my mind away from that stress. There are so many different ways to take care of yourself, and as I mentioned in the beginning, it is SOOOOOOO important. Find what works for you, what works for one person, may not for the other. Good luck on finding that something, and good luck in the field!

Samantha Harris

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