How to Lead Youth With Your Five Senses

Terrence Jakes
Apr 10, 2018 · 5 min read

Taste. Touch. See. Hear. Smell.

Collectively these are known as our five senses. These five senses dictate how we perceive the world around us. Without one or more, contrary to the popular fiction, we don’t significantly heighten the other senses to superhuman levels.

Can you imagine a chef no longer able to taste food? A lifelong musician unable to hear his own playing of the piano? Or a gifted painter without the ability to see his canvas?

We can go on, but the point is, it can make life very different and difficult not having the senses we so rely on to have a “normal” existence.

Not Just For Us

What we have to realize about our five senses is that they are so much more than for our own benefit. We can use the power of our five senses in our interactions with others. This is especially the case of mentors looking to make an impact on our youth.

As a youth leader, it is your job to serve the needs of your youth effectively. A great way to ensure you are doing this is to use your five senses in your interactions. Here’s a quick list of how to do just that.

The Five Senses

1 Taste

A good meal can be kryptonite to a heavily, emotionally guarded young person. Sharing a meal, especially a good meal, is sharing a connection between the two (or more) of you. When eating you are more relaxed because hunger is being satisfied and people are much happier on the road to being full.

Together you all can try new foods to help expand their horizons. Find out what their favorite restaurants are. Inquire about their favorite home-cooked meal. Find out and then use the food to your advantage. Take your chance to have informal conversations to learn more about your youth.

2 Touch

This can be tricky, but effective if done properly. There as so many instances of youth leaders abusing their influence and authority to have inappropriate touching with their youth. That’s not you and that’s not me, so let’s talk about appropriate physical affirmation.

I spoke about this briefly in the list of 25 Ways to Affirm our youth. Handshakes, pats on the back, high fives, and yes even hugs are good. Show special care to giving out hugs. That goes for ALL youth you work with, not just those of the opposite sex.

You will come across youth who don’t receive any positive physical affirmations at home. It is not always necessarily because they aren’t loved. Some adults didn’t have it themselves growing up, so being affectionate is not a natural occurrence, even towards their own children.

Delivering positive physical affirmation in the appropriate circumstances will help you to gain the trust of your youth, allowing you to have a deeper, positive influence on their lives.

We can talk a lot more, but don’t want to over due it with this one section, since this is a list. I’m working on an entire post dedicated to physical affirmation because it’s a very delicate subject. If it’s a subject you are interested in learning more about or have any questions, let me know down in the comments or send me a message through my contact page at

3 See

This is simple, but a two way street.

First, be present. I think a phrase that sums up this third sense is, be consistently seen. Be someone your youth look forward to seeing because they know you are reliable.

Second, is see them. When you do show up when you say you are. BE ENGAGED. The convenience of our electronics has turned into an addiction for many. It can get to a point where you can spend more time meaninglessly scrolling through your social media feeds instead of having meaningful conversations.

Your youth will notice this and if you choose to be there physically, but not emotionally or mentally, you can be doing them a big disservice.

Show up and be engaged from start to finish. Let them know, even if they are not a priority to anyone else, they are a priority to you.

4 Hear

Even if you are an extrovert and used to dominating a conversation, it’s time to take a step back and become an exceptional listener.

If you have had a real conversation with your youth, you know that the vast majority of them have a lot to say and much of it is worth listening to.

Listening gives you a chance to see things from their perspective. It gives you a chance to learn who they truly are and how they feel about the world around them. Listening will even provide you a chance to learn something new from them.

I know sometimes you have to lead conversations, but make sure you are asking a lot of open-ended questions to take the pressure off of them to decide what to talk about, while giving them a chance to express who they are to a willing set of ears.

5 Smell

Yeah you can light a candle or spray some Febreze, but nothing compares to getting outside and smelling the fresh air.

I know in some formal mentoring relationships, you may not be able to do this. If you have this freedom to get past the four walls of a room, please take advantage of it. Go for a walk. Go to a park and find a bench to sit on. Go to a theme park, or even an outdoor adventure park.

There are so many things you can do together with your youth that don’t require electronics or a building. Do a little research in your immediate area and see how a change in setting can help you form a connection with your youth.

The Power of Five

Your five sense are so much more than what they seem. When you really put them to good use, you can truly have an impact on those youth you work with. These methods, collectively, will not work on everybody, but find out what works best for your youth.

Be willing to try different things, because knowing different methods will keep things fresh for everybody. It will also keep you well prepared for their continued evolution. If you are set in your ways of approaching them, they will leave you behind at times when they need you most.


What are some other ways you can cater to the five senses of your youth?

Call To Action

Are you ready, right now, to take on the challenge and be the leader your youth need? Great! Get started today by downloading your free e-book and discover the 5 winning principles of successful youth mentors.

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