Recently, the Search Institute, an organization that has as its vision to ensure that all young people have what they need to thrive, released a new initiative entitled “Relationships First, Creating Connections That Help Young People Flourish”. In 1990, the Search Institute introduced the Developmental Assets framework which integrates insights from the fields of prevention, resilience and positive youth development to identify critical relationships, opportunities, and personal strengthens what young people need to succeed. Since that time, studies of Developmental Assets have been conducted with 6 million young people across the United States and around the world. Studies have shown that adolescents who possess developmental assets are resilient, and possess grit and perseverance when dealing with obstacles and hardship.
The new “Relationships First” initiative adds to the body of literature that a connected child is a protected child. After decades of forming hypotheses, conducting surveys, analyzing data and publishing journal articles, Search Institutes’ researchers and practitioners arrived at a surprisingly simple conclusion; nothing has more impact in the life of a child than positive relationships.
Developmental relationships between parents and youth are associated with multiple areas of well-being and human thriving. The first category outlined in the research is social and emotional competencies, which includes self-awareness (based on self-discovery and a positive view of themselves), knowing their gifts, talents, passions and purpose. Emotional intelligence is defined by being aware of feelings, the ability to manage feelings and awareness and compassion toward the feelings of others. Children who are connected to their parents are also open to challenges and explore new things. They are responsible, own their behaviors, and fulfill their commitments.
School administrators should be aware that children who are connected have higher academic strength, are motivated to learn, master new skills and graduate. They possess an inner drive to succeed.
Community leaders should know that young people who are connected to their families, school and the community are more civically engaged, more motivated to serve and, more equipped to help others, and see serving others as a personal responsibility and value.
Finally, these students are much less likely to get involved in high risk behaviors such as substance use, violence, crime, gangs, early sexual debut, bullying, cheating or vandalism.
To operationalize the characteristics of positive relationships, the Search Institute researchers outlined the concepts of: caring, kindness, shared interests, investment of time, dependability, structure, affirmation, encouragement, fostering hope, expecting the best, accountability, monitoring, learning from mistakes, setting boundaries, sharing power, inspiring, teaching, respect and advocating for their child by providing support.
The Center for Relationship Education trains and certifies individuals to teach these skills to individuals of all ages so they can experience positive relationships that are thriving. It is imperative to collaborate with schools, community leaders, youth serving agency personnel, government programs, Health and Human Service directors, legislators, foundations, community and faith-based organizations to reduce poverty, crime, non-marital childbearing, teen suicide (and other mental health issues), substance abuse, violence, and promote primary prevention and optimal health for all. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.myrelationship
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