News and Tribune

Lifestyles

March 30, 2014

YOUTH COUNT: The best asset for our kids

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — In past columns we’ve referenced the Five Promises youth need to succeed: 1. Caring adults; 2. Effective education; 3. Healthy start; 4. Safe places; and 5. Opportunities to serve.

Even more often, I’ve expanded those “five fundamentals” to share about the “40 Assets” — specific sets of skills, experiences, relationships and behaviors that enable young people to develop into successful and contributing adults. Let’s talk about the one asset that rises to the top.

The most valuable asset we have for kids is you. You have a lot to offer young people. Even if you don’t have much time or money there are many ways you can show kids you care.  

∞ Listen to young people. Not just nodding your head and going “uh-huh” but looking them in the eye, hearing what they say. Ask them questions to help you further understand. Sharing your point of view is valuable but not always necessary.

∞ Acknowledge young people’s contributions and gifts. Thank them for those contributions of time, energy, courtesy and even for helping those in need. And while you’re at it, also celebrate their accomplishments.

∞ Ask young people for their advice and include them in decision making. Find out how they would handle certain situations. They are very creative in their thinking ... maybe we can learn something new.

∞ Give young people meaningful roles. Whether at home, school, or the neighborhood, kids bring lots of talent and energy to projects. Let them help plan and implement activities.

∞ Find out young people’s opinions. Talk to them about family, community, national, and/or world events.  Learn their perspective and the reasons behind it. If you really have a hard time agreeing with them, at least say, “That's something for me to think about.”

∞ Be honest with them. It may not always be the easy thing to do, but our kids don’t learn from us unless we are real with them.

∞ Respect their choices. Of course we need to set boundaries and expectations regarding their behavior but within those boundaries, they won’t always make the same choices we do — and that’s OK.

This list isn’t magical; you can add to it. Be creative in identifying and practicing actions that you are comfortable with and through which you can connect with and validate young people.

Caring adults are the cornerstone of the Five Promises and the foundation for building all the assets. Be that kind of person for as many young people as possible. Help them build strong futures. Youth, you, and the entire community will benefit.

— You can read about the 40 Assets at youthcount.com or at search-institute.org. For additional information about positive youth development contact Youth Count at barbara@youthcount.com or 812-923-1160.

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