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What youth need to succeed

November 13, 2011
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Staff Writer , Salem News

Teens in Columbiana County have spoken. Some 1,700 7th through 10th graders in our county's high schools participated in the 2011 Search Institute Youth Survey. Some of the things they said were surprising. Everything they said pertains to their life skills toolbox, that collection of lessons they have learned over their lifetimes to become better able to handle the life experiences that come thick and fast.

Earlier this month the CASH (Coordinated Action for School Health) Coalition invited representatives from school districts, law enforcement and area agencies that strive to insure the well being of our young people to learn about the results of the survey. The county-wide totals were shared at the meeting, but each school district has received a report specific to their district so they can see where they can improve the problem areas in regard to student asset building.

The Search Institute identifies 40 developmental assets that youth need to succeed, to grow up healthy, caring and responsible. These are broken down into eight categories: support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity. The higher the numbers of assets youth have, the more likely they will be able to achieve their success.

In our county, the asset count looks like this:

15 percent of our youth have 0-10 assets.

41 percent have 11-20 assets.

34 percent have 21-30 assets.

9 percent have 31-40 assets.

The objective is to make enough changes to move all youth toward a higher number of assets, for instance, moving some of the students in the 0-10 assets range up to the 11-20 assets range, and some of the students from the 11-20 assets range to the 21-30.

"OK," you, the parent, say, "how can I help my child increase their assets?"

"You have my attention," you, an educator, might say. "How do I help my students?"

What Teens Need to Succeed by Peter L. Benson, Ph.D., et al, starts with a 40-item checklist for teens that helps them determine how many assets they have, tools like whether they eel they can go to their parents when they need someone to talk to. Do they feel useful and are they given meaningful things to do in their community? What is their involvement level in things like school work, music/theater/other arts, sports/clubs/organizations? Do they spend an hour a week in religious or spiritual activities? Assessing their current assets helps them and Mom and Dad to get focused on where to begin to build the teen's strengths.

Parents, there's also a checklist for you to assess your teen's strengths and give you an idea where to begin to parent where your children need the most help to become happy, healthy, well-adjusted, caring individuals.

Did you ever hear, "It takes a village to raise a child"? That's something that was said before "political correctness" became so prevalent. There was a time when it was not unacceptable for the parent of one child to say to someone else's child, "You shouldn't be doing that. What would your mother say if she knew what you were up to?" In the neighborhood where you grew up did someone else's mother ever ask you, "Does your mother know what you're up to?" And you knew if you were doing something bad enough, she was going to know and you were going to be in big trouble. Did your parents ever tell you if you were disciplined at school you would get a second dose of the discipline when you got home from school?

Children need parental involvement in their lives. Their examples can be found on the street, among their peers or from loving family who offer acceptance, unconditional love and guidance through the pitfalls of life. But sometimes bad things happen to good people. However, increasing your teen's life skills assets will give them a better chance in life.

Choices do have consequences. The Edge is an FRC program for teens for youth ages 13-17. Youth experience skill-building that helps them make good decisions for their well-being, to developing a strong asset base that leads to good choices.

For more information about this topic and The Edge, contact Family Recovery Center at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, FRC promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.



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