Adults expect a lot of young people: to learn to treat people fairly and with kindness, act responsibly, get good grades, and become successful.
Of course, young people can not learn everything they need to reach their goals without help from parents and other caring adults. Adults also expect a lot of themselves. Consistently modeling appropriate behavior, teaching values, and at the same time, striving for your own goals, can be challenging.
That is why it is important to work together. If you know a parent with a troubled teenager or a teacher with a failing student, ask them how you can help. If you are having difficulty connecting with a young person, be sure to ask for the help you need.
Sometimes there are concrete things people can do to help; other times listening is all that is needed.
You are not alone. Raising young people takes a group effort and everyone-parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends, clergy, coaches-play an important role. There are people, places, and resources everyone can turn to when help is needed to support young people.
Families, communities, and schools need support. Even if you are not a parent, you can support young people and their families. Lending an ear at the end of a long day can make a big difference in the life of a frazzled parent. Offer to baby-sit or take a young person on an outing so parents can rest and rejuvenate. Not only will you be helping parents do their jobs better, you will also be helping their children grow and develop in new ways.
In your home: Be easy on yourself-and others! Tell yourself and your spouse, significant other, peers, colleagues, and staff what you (and they) are doing right helping young people. Avoid dwelling on mistakes; celebrate your successes and give yourself a pat on the back!
In your neighborhood: Help build your neighbors' confidence as parents and caring adults. Leave a note or voice mail telling a certain neighbor how much you appreciate him or her.
In your school or youth program: Send a letter to parents about building the 40 Developmental Assets, and then discuss them in conferences or parent meetings. Sign up for the Everyday Parenting newsletter at www.mvparents.com and forward it on to your friends.
Ian Eastman, M.A., coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth of Warren County on behalf of Family Services. This article was adapted from Instant Assets, published by Search Institute.