So awkward: How to handle difficult conversations with Scouts and Venturers

scoutcast-logo1OK, this is awkward.

Sometimes you have to talk to your teenage Scouts and Venturers about things like appropriate attire, financial troubles at home, food allergies, embarrassing medical issues, fear of swimming, religion and divorce. A lot of times Scout and Venturing adult leaders like us don’t feel prepared to discuss these subjects. So we stay quiet.

Wrong move, says longtime Scoutmaster and current Venturing Advisor Peter Self.

“We’ve got youth out there that are being excluded or being left out of the program because we’re unwilling to have these discussions,” Self explains in the January 2015 ScoutCast.

When we avoid awkward conversations, one of two things happens, Self contends. “Either we assume that because of these situations they can’t participate,” he says, “or they assume they can’t participate. And neither one is correct, quite honestly. So, if we don’t have these discussions periodically, we leave a lot of kids out of the program.”

That’s so awkward

Self gives a couple of examples of awkward situations he’s dealt with.

In one, a young woman in his Venturing crew was dressing immodestly to crew events. He went to the girl’s mom, who said she’s tried and failed to improve her daughter’s attire. It was awkward, but the two worked out a solution that didn’t require Self to cross any Youth Protection boundaries.

In another example, the father of a Scout in Self’s troop lost his job. Nobody else in the troop knew about it, and the boy stopped showing up to Scout meetings because he felt he could no longer afford to participate. Self overcame that hurdle, too.

The easy way would’ve been asking the Venturer to leave the crew and letting the Scout stop showing up. Self chose the hard way.

Why you might not be talking

Look, I get it. We aren’t comfortable talking about topics like the ones I list above because of fear. We’re afraid of being sued. We’re afraid of offending someone. We’re afraid of being seen as lecturing someone else’s child.

But I agree with Self when he says: Get over the awkwardness. It’s worth it.

So how do you do that? Start by listening to the January 2015 ScoutCast. It’s also available in transcript form for Scouters who would rather read than listen.

Either way, it’s an important discussion.

Share your awkward experiences

Ever successfully held one of these awkward conversations? Give your advice for handling them in the comments below.

About Bryan Wendell 3140 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.