Developmental Relationships

As parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches, and support for our youth, we can get lost in how to help or guide our youth through such an adventurous moment in history- the pandemic. We hear how isolating this germ is, but have we forgotten how isolating our world is we live in already: where social media rules, phones are constantly in our hands, the endless scheduling of events and extracurricular activities. If anything this germ is bringing so much to light and to face value. It has shown us that we have lost what a meaningful and fulfilled relationship looks like. 

Search Institute has created a list of assets they find to be helpful for successful and resilient youth; they have also created a list of elements to build developmental relationships. The Developmental Relationship Framework allows us to question and master our abilities to (1) provide support, (2) expand possibilities, (3) challenge growth, (4) express care, and (5) share power. It is through these five elements that any adult can build resiliency and protective factors in youth.

  When we look at how to express care, we can ask ourselves if we are following up with young people, especially when we know they are going through something. Rather than waiting for them to respond, expressing care means putting our phones away, paying attention, focusing on a task they are completing, and laugh during mundane tasks. Challenging growth means we emphasize that mistakes happen but teach how to become better, questioning the future, and giving options for them, while also highlighting the future goals they already have in place. Showing support is another critical element; this is something we often take for granted. Support, in its simplicity, is listening when they ask for help, offer practical solutions to solve problems, and shifting levels of support when it’s needed. Every situation is different, meaning to show we care, we need to access if they need us or if our youth need us to back away. Expand possibilities mean opening up their current view of the world by providing the tools and the community environment to explore beyond their bubble of existence. And the last one that can often be the most difficult is shared power. Our youth have a voice, and we need to listen, allow them to make choices, and let them lead when the time is right. 

Developmental relationships are such a beautiful concept. In providing support to our youth and teaching them how to build healthy relationships, we are giving them wings to take off into thriving adulthood. They will need guidance in flying off to success, and through developmental relationships, we as caregivers can provide them everything they need to start. Lead by example is such a common saying we hear. Keep it simple and trust the boundaries you create, but also be willing to expand those boundaries if your youth is willing to trust you. Our world may be a little confusing, and we can easily focus on the negative. But with the right tools and focus, we can work on building positive relationships with our youth,  and together we will flourish!


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