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The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” has never had so much meaning as it does in today’s society.
The responsibility of raising a child is often shared with the larger, extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings. Neighbors and friends also can participate in a child’s upbringing.
In fact, bringing caring adults into a child’s life is the secret to helping them grow into healthy, happy and responsible adults. And it isn’t really a secret at all.
The Search Institute has identified The 40 Developmental Assets – “common-sense, positive experiences and qualities that help influence choices young people make and help them become caring, responsible, successful adults,” and research into substance-abuse prevention shows them to be effective tools.
The assets are divided into eight categories: support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning and positive values. The greater number of these assets a child has in his life, the more likely he is to exhibit positive values such as good health, leadership, diversity and success in school.
According to the institute’s research, “youth with the most assets are least likely to engage in four different patterns of high-risk behavior: problems with alcohol use, violence, illicit drug use and sexual activity.
“The same kind of impact is evident with many other problem behaviors, including tobacco use, depression and attempted suicide, antisocial behavior, school problems, driving [while using] alcohol, and gambling.”
Young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate and accept them. So many of our young people don’t live with both parents or have any kind of “Leave it to Beaver” home life.
They do, however, go to school, play sports, shop in stores and live next door to adults who can show support by talking to them, listening to them, showing acceptance and taking time to care. Adults can empower young people by making them feel safe and valuable.
Young people also need clear rules, consistent consequences if rules are broken, and encouragement to do their best; they need boundaries and expectations.
Any caring adult can share new skills and interests with young people to teach them to be constructive with their use of time. The 21st Century Community Learning Center – The Lighthouse is a perfect place for adults to share their talents with young people, to develop a sense of the lasting importance of the commitment to learning and believing in their own abilities. Students love to learn new things from adults who care enough to come and teach them new things after the school day ends.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters is another program that allows caring adults to build assets in youth and help develop positive values by helping them make positive and healthy life choices.
People are generous during the holiday season. Please consider giving your time, encouragement, a “high five,” a smile or a hug to a young person, to support and empower them, and help build their list of assets.
Misty Wheeler is coordinator of Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County.