One of the most important factors effecting a young person’s development is the quality of relationships they experience with important adults in their lives. Children need caring positive relationships with healthy adults. Children and young adults need to know that there are adults in their lives that have a genuine interest in their likes, dislikes, activities, goals, and especially their concerns. If this is provided to a child and young adult by at least one consistent adult, they can succeed and soar out of the direst circumstances.
Who did you turn to for advice, comfort, and understanding when you were young? Was there an adult that you trusted, went to for advice, looked up to? If you can answer yes to either both or one of these questions, you probably understand how important having a relationship like that is to children and young people.
Recall that person who had a positive impact on you as a child or young adult. Most likely that person was a role model setting a positive example for you. Did this person have high expectations for you? Did they listen to you? Did that person guide you and direct you, not simply telling you what to do? Did you feel accountable to that person? Most importantly, did that person spend time with you?
Portage Township Schools is currently implementing the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets. The Search Institute’s research shows that the more assets children and young people have, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. Other Adult Relationships is Asset 3 of Search Institute’s 40 assets. Other Adult Relationships includes the qualities, experiences, and relationships that help young people and children grow up to be healthy, caring, and responsible individuals. According to research conducted by the Search Institute, young people who have three or more caring adults in their lives who support them feel happier, and more hopeful, do better in school, and are less likely to rely on drinking, smoking, or drugs to feel good or fit in.
Pay it forward! Build relationships! Make those connections! As parents, think about your child’s strengths, talents, and interests. Do you know any adults that share these same qualities? Invite them to make that connection with your child. Make an effort to interact positively with children and young people in your neighborhood and community on a regular basis. Consider being a mentor to one or more young people.
Children and young people need to feel that they are being listened to, that their feelings and opinions matter. Respecting their uniqueness, accepting them for who they truly are goes a long way in affirming a child and young adult’s self-worth. Recognizing their individual strengths, talents, and interests which are so important in helping them develop their eventual independence can be very powerful. Be patient, be flexible, and be dependable. Be genuine and keep your word by not making promises you can’t keep. Spend time having those meaningful conversations. Stick by them even through the difficult times. The rewards will be plentiful!
This holiday season connect with children and young people by taking the time to be together, listen to what is important to them, and thank them for their presence in your life.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.