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Questioning to gain views

Consider the following:

  • The child or young person should be made to feel safe and confident before starting.
  • Questions should be mainly be open ended and age appropriate. Use open-ended questions such as ‘Tell me what that’s like….’  ‘What do you like about…..?’  ‘How does that make you feel….?’
  • If child or young person finds it hard to express themselves, be prepared to use forced alternatives or closed questions. For example, “Do you like reading by yourself or being read to?” Closed questions can clarify a child or young person’s view. They can also help if the child or young person is stuck and can usually be followed by opening out the discussion subject again, e.g. “Do you have some friends? Tell me about your friends.”
  • It is best to try to avoid using completely closed questions.
  • The child or young person will often need time to reflect on the question they have been asked – give them this time and space.
  • The views of child or young person can be effectively captured if they are approached at the appropriate level and in a way that is reflective of their ability to understand. Adults should take into account the developmental age of the child as well as their chronological age.
  • Language needs to be adapted so as to be said in a way that the child or young person understands. Take into account any special educational needs such as hearing impairment or mental health issues.
  • Adults should always be open and honest with child or young person as well as mindful about information that could impact negatively if it was disclosed to them.
  • Be prepared to offer alternatives if the child finds it hard to express their thoughts.
  • Accept the child or young person’s perception of a situation – be careful not to give an opinion.
  • The adult should aim for a quality discussion rather than focusing on getting through all the questions.  Stop if the child or young person becomes restless or tired.
  • Make sure that the child or young person knows that their views have been acknowledged – this needs to be as concrete as possible in a child / young person friendly language
  • Use the language of exploration – this helps the child or young person to feel that this is a shared task.  For example, ‘I’m wondering what it’s like…..’
  • Reflect back what the child or young person says by repeating a phrase. Reflecting back to child or young person on what they have said often elicits more information. It also demonstrates that the adult has heard what they have said and taken it seriously. For some children and young people this can be very important. The child or young person can also be encouraged to say more if the adult repeats a phrase they have used with the intonation of a question. 

Last updated 21 September 2020

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