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    What the heck are “Developmental Relationships”

    What the heck are “Developmental Relationships” and why do they matter?

    Everyone knows that relationships matter. What we also know is that relationships matter to, and shape, kids. And they matter A LOT. In fact, research shows that young people are more likely to grow up successfully when they experience developmental relationships with important adults in their lives. These relationships enable youth to discover who they are, cultivate their own unique abilities to shape their lives, and learn how to engage with others and the world around them. Whether a child has a consistent relationship with an adult that supports and believes in them is the single most important factor in that child’s ability to thrive and to overcome traumatic events in their lives.

    While most individuals may never participate in a mentoring organization as children, most people are able to identify an informal mentor they had as a child. Think about it for a moment: who was your mentor and what were the qualities of the relationship that led you to identify them as a mentor? When posed this question, most people speak of a constellation of factors that are summed up by the elements and actions of a developmental relationship, as defined by The Search Institute, a non-profit think tank dedicated to research on positive youth development. The Developmental Relationships Framework is comprised of five elements, expressed in 20 specific actions, that make relationships meaningful in young people’s lives.

    An intuitive understanding of the importance of developmental relationships has been the foundation of the Buddy Program’s mission for 45 years. More recently, we implemented this framework to train, inspire and coach our Big Buddies to mentor with greater intentionality. The good news is that while it is an effective paradigm for mentors, it is something that anyone working with kids (parents, counselors, teachers, coaches, and service providers)can easily add to their tool bag. At first glance the concepts may seem deceptively basic, but I urge you to reflect more deeply on each element, using them to evaluate your daily interactions with the youth in your life. What elements are easy for you to manifest and where do you struggle with consistency? What happens when you only praise a child for their achievements and not for their efforts? Can a relationship sustain challenges if the foundation of Expressing Care has not been laid? Why is reflecting on failures an important part of Challenging Growth? Ask the kids you know if they feel they Share Power in their families, their friendships, or at school, and what do you notice changes for a child when they do feel they have a voice in decisions that are made? How are you concretely Expanding the Possibilities for the youth in your life?

    If you are inspired and interested in learning more about the Buddy Program and applying to become a mentor, please contact Laura Seay at [email protected] or 970-317-2833.As a coach, a teacher, a parent, a practitioner or a mentor, you possess certain knowledge, training, skills, and experiences. But the most important thing that you have to offer a child is the quality and nature of the relationship that you have formed. The Developmental Relationships Framework is the map that you need to create the most successful connection and therefore the most positive outcomes possible.

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