Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Developing Self-Worth and Acceptance

The Search Institute has identified 40 Developmental Assets which are building blocks of healthy development. These assets are divided into two categories: external and internal assets. In the process of identifying these assets, the Institute discovered that when these assets are in place young people develop resiliency, and when resiliency is developed the young person is better prepared to “bounce back” when things change rapidly or misfortune occurs. Today, when people are experiencing change everywhere and at a very rapid pace, resiliency is essential.
Four of the internal assets address the importance of Positive Identity and deal with the development of self-worth. Here is how the Search Institute defines these assets:
  • Personal Power | Young person feels he or she has control over "things that happen to me.”
  • Self-Esteem | Young person reports having a high self-esteem (regard, worth, value).
  • Sense of Purpose | Young person reports that "my life has a purpose."
  • Positive View of Personal Future | Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.”

These developmental assets focus attention on youth as possibilities to be realized rather than people to be fixed. Focusing on youth in this way is embodied in a youth development approach. One of the leading experts on youth development, Karen Pittman, stated in 1999 that youth development is “the ongoing growth process in which all youth are engaged in attempting to (1) meet their basic personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, be valued, be useful, and be spiritually grounded, a (2) build skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives.”
After-school programs are uniquely positioned to take this youth development approach in working with youth and to help them develop essential characteristics of resiliency. Beginning roughly in 4th grade, youth begin to rely more on their peers, the community, and people outside of traditional family supports, for acceptance. Letting youth know that each of them is valued for he/she is, promotes feelings of self-worth. In your after-school program look at everything you do with youth through the lens of youth development.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 13th is Embrace Your “Geekness” Day. Certainly this is an interesting day. The cool part about being a geek is that you are highly intelligent (a brainiac or as is identified on the TV show Bones—a squint). Geeks are also technically oriented and enjoy working on computers and computer systems. Although some people think of the word “geek” in a negative way, one would have to wonder if they are doing this because they are envious of this highly intelligent person with great computer skills. I am sure that each of us has a little “geek” in us, so on this special day, copyrighted for fun and profit by Wellcat Holidays, be joyous and CELEBRATE! There is really nothing wrong with such a compliment!

Activities for Youth
  1. Have young people divide into small groups of 5-6. Ask them to come up with a very “geeky” cheer or accolade. Have each group practice and be prepared to demonstrate for the rest of the class.
  2. After the group has seen all of the cheers, have them select the one that they most like.
  3. The winning group then teaches the cheer to the entire group.
  4. Then have young people think about and share a “geeky” moment in their lives—one when they were particularly smart and/or used technology brilliantly. When they finish sharing the “geeky” moment, the rest of the group then gives them the “geeky” cheer.

(1) Search Institute 40 Developmental Assets. http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18 (March, 2010)
(2) Center for Youth Development and Policy Research. What is youth development? http://cyd.aed.org/whatis.html (March, 2010)

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