Throughout my practicum this semester, I am beginning to realize that self care is very important as I have been feeling very run down, and burnt out. There was a moment last week when I had a vulnerable moment with the staff at my practicum and broke down and cried. Since then, I have been wondering if what I did was unprofessional as it was in the staff suite, with kids around. I understand that being vulnerable is okay, and within my boundaries, but was this an unprofessional thing to do? Or does it normalize that emotions are okay to have, especially for kids who struggle with that area?
You are asking great questions? You are seeking answers linked to the competencies of Child and Youth Care practice, as well as, your beliefs and values. My hope is that you will hear a variety of views on the subjects you bring up.
For me the topic of self care is one I feel passionate about and have made it my job to advocate for self care knowledge and strategies to empower others and self.
As I am not aware of the program you are in, their policies, procedures and mission statement it is difficult to make a point in the context of work. I do believe that healthy emotional role modeling is essential to a developing child’s self awareness and management, as well as, awareness and management of others. Managing the boundaries are difficult as there is a lot of grey, most things are not cut and dry. How could you utiilize the display of emotion (vulnerability) as a teachable moment? As want to circumvent the need being met, yours; comfort, understanding back to the child/youth? How might this change the relationship between yourself and the youth, family or team?
In the end you expressed the emotion? Finding out why and being compassionate throughout the process is important. What was your core emotion? Where did it come from, trigger? You will always be learning something about yourself in this field. Try to see the benefit of each event as a lesson in disguise.
If crying was unprofessional I would have a career lasting a few months instead of five decades.
I think this is a scenario that can be looked at from many different aspects. There are so many contributing factors that come into play here. Yes, emotions are healthy and we want to teach our clients that it is okay to have, acknowledge and feel our emotions, however, the big question is...whose needs are being met here?
In teaching our clients that emotions are okay, we need to teach them that emotions are safe to feel too. As therapeutic adults, we want to send our clients the message that we can feel our emotions simultaneously- life doesn't stop happening around us. If that situation poses a risk to lead you to be unable to meet the needs of your clients or sent the message that you are emotionally unavailable or perhaps even that they need to take care of you...then yes...for myself, I would think it was unprofessional. Context is important.
But....yes...you are human...and you are learning...you are growing as a professional. Keep going. Keep reflecting!
Laura C. Mitchell
As usual I agree with Lorraine Fox. It's not 'unprofessional' to cry ! Few are those (including me) who have never cried in the context of their work. One might acknowledge to the youth and the staff that you were upset (or whatever emotion(s) you wish to cite, and hence were brought to tears. This could actually be helpful learning for them. I found that I got more respect from youngsters when I showed real emotion rather than a more saccharine 'holding it in'. One time – on good provocation – I yelled at them, for the first time ever. They smiled as they immediately corrected what had upset me. I also think the novelty of my response had something to do with it.
Interestingly humor might help in such situations to lighten up as tears are dried as well as a comment "I'm one of those people who cry at the drop of a hat" or some such.
Karen Vander Ven
I supervise youth programs at a community centre. My staff cry frequently and I do as well. We deal with very emotional and hard issues. Crying is not a sign of weakness, it allows you to release stress out of your body – how is this not good? I love and appreciate my staff more because they are real and I know how much they care. Crying is not unprofessional. I have cried with children, youth, families, co-workers and supervisors. Our work is real and raw – be who you are, have good intentions and embrace the children, youth and families you work with.
I recommend you do some reading around compassion fatigue, I suspect you may have been experiencing symptoms last week. Laura Van Der Noot Lipsky has written a fantastic book on the subject called ‘Trauma Stewardship’, great reading. I think very soon we will see a time when no program training CYCs will be considered complete without a course on compassion fatigue. The idea that we can be surrounded by this work and not be affected is as naïve as saying you can walk through a pond and not get wet!