Create a space where a young person you know can feel safe to open up, be themselves, and let you know how they want to be supported.
Let the young person you're helping choose what a safe space looks like
A safe space can be anything / anywhere they feel comfortable to express themselves
Let them know they’re safe and they can talk about anything without being judged
Consider a "safe space agreement" outlining what is ok to talk and ask about
It’s about having a strong, empowering relationship with them
Everyone is different, with experiences and feelings that shape who they are. Someone else’s safe space can be very different to yours. A safe space might be:
somewhere rangatahi / young people can learn, practise new skills and get constructive feedback
a place where they can be themselves and express their opinions and experiences
somewhere they can access information and support safely
it’s not just about a physical place – it could be going for a walk, cooking, surfing, or throwing a ball
it’s about the relationship you and the young person have.
You may want to create a “safe space agreement” together, where you decide how you can work together to show support and respect.
Here are a few things you might want to have in an agreement:
We consider how we open and close our connection in our safe space (karakia, moment of silence, asking each other how things have been since the last chat etc).
We respect each other’s culture, sexual and gender identity, and our physical, mental and emotional boundaries. We ask if we want to talk about who we are and our personal journey.
We take a break or walk away if we feel too angry or upset to continue.
We are sober and ready to meet.
It’s ok not to answer every question.
We respect confidentiality and privacy of information, except where it puts anyone at risk of being unsafe. We are clear about what will happen with that information.
We set limits about location, time and what can and can’t be shared with others.
We respect diverse opinions, beliefs, and points of view and encourage sharing of ideas.
We are aware of the impact our behaviour has on each other and accept ownership and responsibility for it.
We expect to be challenged if things are not right.
The most important thing is rangatahi / young people find a safe space that best suits them and where they can talk about any problems they have.
No matter where you are, as long as you are together in some way you can connect and create a safe space.
Here are some ideas for creating a safe space. Ask your rangatahi / young person if any of these helps them feel comfortable:
1. Have a ‘feelings check-in’
Before and after a conversation, check to see how the other person is feeling. It shows respect, that you care how they feel and want to help.
2. Let them know you’re happy to chat about anything
Let the person know they’re allowed to share anything with you. Let them know you will respectfully listen and will only share things with another person if you feel they or someone else may be in danger.
3. Ask how you’re doing
Ask them how you’re doing as a mentor, friend, parent, etc. Ask them if there is anything they need more or less of. This shows you want to do better.
To be a good listener we should pay attention to the person speaking instead of thinking about what to say next. To practice active listening, try saying back to them what they’ve said in your own words.
2. Don’t try to fix everything
When someone we care about shares something difficult, our first instinct might be to try solve the problem. At first, people need to be listened to and understood and later, when they’re ready, they might ask for help.
3. Keep it about them
It’s often easier to understand something when we relate it to ourselves. There’s a time and place to talk about our experiences, but not while you should be listening to someone share their experiences. We should keep our own issues and experiences separate so we focus on being there for the other person.
4. Let them know they’re safe
It can be hard for rangatahi / young people to be open with people. While listening, let them know that you trust and believe them, and you believe in them.
5. Be open to emotions that come up
You never know what will come up when you give someone space to be vulnerable. Emotions can be confusing and conflicting. Encourage and allow space for the other person to let it out, even if hearing how they feel is hard. Reassure them that you are there for them, no matter what they say.