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Building Strong Community Foundations for Children & Youth

Developed by the South Fraser Valley Regional Child & Youth Committee in partnership with Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives Association

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Building Assets in Youth

What you can do to make a difference in the lives of youth 12 to 18 years old

 

The following information has been designed to assist Youth Service providers with the necessary tools to have lasting, positive influences on youth with whom they interact with every day. These are general and straightforward ideas about Asset Building with youth. There are no limitations on adapting these ideas to meet the needs or requirements of your organization.

 

 

Photo: Mary R. Vogt, Morguefile

SUPPORT

Continuously work at building positive relationships. A program or service will not be beneficial without good working relationships between the people involved, both employees and clients.
 

 

Work with other social service agencies to identify, reduce, or eliminate factors in your community that put youth at risk
 

 

Support the need for youth to be both independent and interdependent. These are both important qualities.
 

 

Be an active listener for youth that you meet with.

Examples:

Make eye contact

Pay attention to body language

Lean forward or face their direction to show that you are focused on them

Ask open-ended questions 
 

Ask youth for their perspective on various topics of interest.
 

 

If you are asking a tough question, or a question the youth might have a difficult time answering, don’t make direct eye contact as this adds additional pressure to the question.

Examples:
Ask them what they think of issues that are big in the media. Asking for their opinion first opens a door for offering your opinion and this can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
Try to engage them in conversations about underlying topics.
 

Spend time with the youth and make them feel welcome to visit your office, even when they are not scheduled to be there.

Examples:
Have treats on hand that you can offer youth if they drop in to say “Hi”.
Have a subscription to popular youth magazines so youth have interesting reading material to look at.
Make your office welcoming. When possible, keep your door open when you are there to make it inviting for youth.
 

Offer training for community members on communication skills and building positive relationships with youth
 

 

EMPOWERMENT


Have a list of local volunteer placement locations in your community; talk with youth about places where they would like to help out. Encourage them to become a regular volunteer at an organization in your community.
 


Examples:
homeless shelters, food banks, seniors’ homes, animal shelters, Salvation Army.

Express the importance of being a leader in your community. Encourage youth to make their own choices and not to give in to peer pressure or follow poor choices of friends and peers.

Example: Have youth practice leadership skills and debate skills.

 
Let youth make choices for themselves; offer your opinion but reinforce that they have to make their own decisions. Talk through difficult decisions; show them the importance of weighing choices out and not being too impulsive.  Show them how to map out choices using a “pros and cons list” so they can clearly see their options.
 

 

BOUNDARIES & EXPECTATIONS


For younger youth, have an idea about where they are going after they are in your care. Talk with them in a non-interrogative way to learn this information. Ensure that they have a safe way to get to their next destination.
 

 

 Expect youth to test your boundaries on occasion. Maintain patience, calmness and consistency in your boundaries and expectations that are relative to that youth’s profile.

Examples:
You may have more boundaries with younger youth
• You may have different expectations for youth to return phone calls or show up for scheduled meetings depending on the youth’s current situation (they may be homeless, live with parents, live on their own, or in custody). 
 

As youth get older, be willing to set new boundaries with them that are reflective of their age and maturity. Negotiate these boundaries with youth so that they have a say in the guidelines.

 

 

Be respectful of every youth’s need for privacy, yet pursue conversations in which they choose to open up.

 

Encourage youth to set high goals for their future and reinforce the need for boundaries in order to achieve those goals.

Examples:
Help youth who want to pursue sports on a professional level to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as not smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.
Offer free condoms , free feminine hygiene products, and literature on abstinence and safe sex. Also have information about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in easy-to-access spaces and refer youth to the information. Do not preach to youth about what they should or shouldn’t do. Rather, empower them with the knowledge to make their own choices and what the consequences of those choices may look like.
 

CONSTRUCTIVE USE OF TIME


O
nce each week, hold a Family Night where the staff and youth are welcome to just hang out and get to know each other.


Example
: Open the office in the evening for movies and snacks.

Encourage nuclear families to also have “family nights” in which they all come together to do something fun.

 

Help youth find activities that are positive, interesting and meaningful to them.

 

Encourage older youth to start to be involved in activities that they would be able to continue to do as an adult.

Examples:
Become part of a versatile volunteer group in which there are no age restrictions
Become a summer camp leader
Join a youth advisory committee that provides input to the city/municipal council.
Be open to having conversations with youth about their extracurricular activities, and how these activities are a benefit or a deficit toward their long term goals.

COMMITMENT TO LEARNING

Talk with youth about their school subjects. Discuss projects that they have to do. If they are struggling with a project, offer ideas and brainstorm creative ways for them to complete it. Remember to talk about this project at a later date—follow up says “I care”.

 

 

Encourage youth to have collections of things that they find interesting. Contribute to these collections to show that you are interested in their hobbies.
 

Example: Scrapbooks of photos, drawings, art, stamps, fashion clippings, postcards, etc.

Support youth in taking a course, outside of their regular school curriculum, on a topic that is of special interest to them
 

 

Inspire youth to think about goals for the future and what they need to be doing at this point in time to reach those goals.
 

 

Talk with youth about the importance of setting goals beyond graduating from high school. Encourage them to make post-graduation goals inspired by what they enjoy doing the most in life.

 

Examples:
Travelling to their favourite place
Learning to play a new musical instrument
Getting involved with their community through volunteer work
 Joining a sports league that they’re interested in.
 

Post a list of the Developmental Assets in your office, and talk about them with youth when an opportunity arises.
 

 

POSITIVE VALUES

Set a positive example by being caring and responsible in how you interact with others.
 

 

Have open discussions with youth about your personal values on such important topics as honesty, tobacco, alcohol, sexual activity, drug use, violence and others. Be sure to value their opinions and be open to understanding their perspective.
 

 

Watch youth-oriented TV shows or read books designed for youth. Spend time with youth talking about  the characters’ values.
 

 

Encourage youth to volunteer at organizations that are meaningful to them.
 

 

Have open conversations with youth about how their values influence the choices they make. Provide stories about how you have come to have your own set of values and how those values influence you now.
 

Example: Tell stories about when you learned the importance of not engaging in illegal activities, such as stealing, doing drugs or hurting other people.
 

SOCIAL COMPETENCIES


When a youth is in a crisis situation, teach them skills for healthy coping.
 

 

Be mindful in how you respond to youth’s emotional fluctuates.

 

Example: If a youth goes from happy to angry quickly, refrain from reacting in a negative manner which might make things worse. Remember all behaviour has a communicative message but sometimes teenage emotions move so rapidly due to hormones that you need to let it slide. Be assertive and clear about boundaries but also respect their need to learn how to control their emotions. 
 

Teach youth proper conflict resolution skills. Empower them to avoid fighting and to effectively talk out their problems or disagreements with others. Teach them to use “I messages”
 

 

Show interest and ask questions about youths’ dreams and aspirations, and help them set out steps of how they will get there.
 

 

Have open conversations with youth about how to make healthy choices when they are put in a compromising position, such as being offered drugs.

 

POSITIVE IDENTITY

Be aware that youth will fluctuate in their level of self-esteem throughout their early teens and that it will stabilize as they get older.
 

Express your excitement and happiness when youth share that they have new discoveries or experiences.
 

Offer guidance and support while youth work through the questions and issues of self-identity.
 

Make it a priority that every employee in your office finds a special talent in every youth that they have contact with.

Focus on strengths in youth and families. Assess their strengths as well as needs and reinforce these positive qualities. Help them write out their strengths in a personal profile of “who they are”.  Encourage teens to post part their profiles on the wall of your office as a “go to”  person for one or two of their strengths.  For example: Jane is awesome with computers and will gladly help with all your IT needs – she also speaks French.  Peter can type 75 words a minute,  is a Math whiz and knows sign language. This not only enhances their self esteem but encourages them to build on their strengths and social skills.  This process will also encourage families to look at their youth from a strength based perspective.

 
Adapted from Pass It On! Ready To Use Handouts for Asset Builders, ©1999 by The Search Institute
 

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