One of my favorite resources is the Search Institute. Their motto is "Discovering what kids need to succeed." The website www.search-institute.org is full of helpful information and fantastic articles for parents and educators alike. Over the summer of 2017 they featured a series of blog posts about how to empower tweens and teens to make successful transitions to middle and high school.
The focus of these articles was on creating what they refer to as "developmental relationships" with the young people in your life who are facing these challenges. Having these kinds of relationships gives them the best possible chance of making the jump to that next level. According to the Search Institute, developmental relationships involve a fluid mix of these five relational commitments:
#1. Expressing Care: Show them that you enjoy being together. Even when it is difficult, you should listen to them and take the time to show you care. Try to structure the first few weeks of school so that there is dedicated time built into the family's schedule to"check and connect" or just have some fun.
#2. Challenging Growth: Help them push to be their best. This does not just mean nagging them about homework or studying for tests. It can also mean learning from failures and helping them to make themselves accountable for staying on track. This should include asking questions as well as giving advice. Questions like, "What do you think that you need to be successful?" can go a long way toward validating their opinions and experience. Give credence to the idea that they may know what's best.
#3. Providing Support: Guide and advocate for them as you work to overcome obstacles, complete tasks and achieve goals. Sometimes the thing that young people need the most is a good listener, just someone they can vent to every once in a while who isn't going to judge them or try to solve their problems. Give advice when it seems like they want it, but otherwise just listen or goof around with them. Having fun with your kids helps both of you to enjoy your lives and your relationship with them.
#4. Sharing Power: Take their ideas seriously. Work together to solve problems and reach goals. Again, asking questions and staying open-minded about possible solutions puts you in the support position and may help them to be more honest and open with you. This can be quite challenging at times, but the effort is sure to pay dividends in your relationship.
#5. Expanding Possibilities: Help them connect with other people, ideas and opportunities that open up new possibilities for the future. Remember that there are a lot of resources out there that are available. Some may be through church, the school, or your community. Do some research when you or they need some help and be willing to ask for it.
Along those lines, I encourage you to sign up for the Search Institute newsletter. It is full of good advice, solid research, and a wealth of opportunities for social emotional learning. Whether you're a parent, teacher or some other kind of professional working with kids, I'm sure you'll find it informative and worthwhile.
Here's to a great school year!