Whether the community encompasses civic groups, religious organizations, schools, sports leagues, or any and all groups that serve youth, it can promote healthy development by creating conditions in which families can thrive and by offering community-based resources including youth development and enrichment programs.
If you represent a school, community, or program that’s thinking about using a positive youth development or resilience-based strategy to transform the way young people are approached, consider organizations that will work closely with you to evaluate needs, suggest infrastructure changes, and frame interventions. Here are 4 well-respected groups that can rise to meet your needs:
What Parents Can Do Within Their Community or as a Community Leader
- Notice the acts of
generosity and compassion shown by youth and spread these good news stories. Don’t notice only the heroic acts, but also the everyday acts; recognize kindness and contribution as the norm.
- Advocate for the positive portrayal of youth in the community. Ask for a shift away from
media coverage where only the highest achievers and delinquents get airtime.
- Advocate for public health messages that don’t just tell kids what not to do but fervently tell kids what to do, and recognize that most youth are already doing the right thing.
- Advocate for enrichment programs in communities and schools, especially in those areas most at risk that currently only have
prevention programs. This doesn’t mean you should suggest that risk-based programs be cut.
- Give youth opportunities to contribute to their communities. When they’re out serving others, their value will be noticed and they’ll receive those vital reinforcing displays of gratitude.
- Work with the parents in your community so that young people have appropriate role models, rules, and boundaries that ensure safety. If these are seen as normal in your community, adolescents will have less reason to rebel.
Including Youth Wisdom
Young people who contribute to the well-being of their community and are noticed for their efforts will be more likely to stay engaged. We must never forget that youth are the experts on themselves. We increase the quality of the program and the benefits to the participants when we ask youth for advice in designing a program. Young people who help programs design services may become leaders in those same or future programs.
If you want to guide the youth of a community toward positive behaviors, consider creating peer educators and positive role models. Messages hold a certain resonance when transmitted from someone to whom peers can relate. At the same time, peer educators have more credibility when they’re linked with respected adult experts. Understand also who the peer opinion leaders are (not necessarily the best students or class officers) and influence them to model appropriate behaviors.