It takes a village. From early childhood to adolescence, children need ever-evolving support and care from their adult role models. If you are looking to have a positive impact on a child in your life, this article builds upon the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets to offer a series of actionable steps you can take to best support the youth you care about as they age and enter new stages of development.

The 40 Developmental Assets

The 40 Developmental Assets are a list of factors that contribute to a young person’s success and healthy development. These assets promote positive behaviors and skills that protect youth from problem behaviors, such as substance abuse and violence, and increase the likelihood that they mature into well-rounded, healthy individuals. 

Guide to Being an Asset Builder

You can use the framework of the 40 Developmental Assets to build a positive, constructive relationship with youth and help them to develop these assets. Below are some specific ways you can be an asset builder and have a positive impact by engaging with a child during different developmental stages.  

Ways to Make A Positive Impact in Early Childhood (Ages 3-5) 

  • Greet and interact with the child by name to create a sense of belonging and support.
  • Allow the child the freedom to dress themselves. This allows them to express their individuality. 
  • Include them in decision making. Allow them to choose which book you will read together or what vegetables they want with dinner. This gives them a sense of personal power.
  • Set up playdates or encourage out-of-home programs. This encourages the child to interact with others and be physically active.
  • Here, you can check out Search Institute’s complete list of 40 Developmental Assets for Early Childhood. Another great resource consulted in this article is 40 Developmental Assets: Helping Young People Grow Up Strong.

How to Make A Positive Impact in K-3 (Ages 5-9) 

  • As a guardian, talk about the importance of education. Actively involve yourself in the child’s school success by helping them study for tests and attending parent/teacher conferences.
  • Encourage the child to participate in frequent artistic expression outside of school through activities such as music or dance. 
  • Help the child feel self-confident by sharing three things you like about yourself and vice versa.
  • Motivate the child to listen to and/or read books outside of school as a way to foster a commitment to learning. 
  • Here, you can check out Search Institute’s complete list of 40 Developmental Assets for K-3.

How to Make A Positive Impact in Middle Childhood (Ages 8-12) 

  • Continue to include the youth in decisions at home and in the community. Let them decide what camps/programs/sports they would like to participate in.
  • Ensure the child spends some meaningful time at home doing things other than TV or video games, such as family game night.
  • Periodically ask the child how happy they are with the activities they participate in. Are the activities exciting and challenging?
  • Allow the child to make mistakes. Take the time to discuss failures in a constructive way.
  • Here, you can check out Search Institute’s complete list of 40 Developmental Assets for Middle Childhood

How to Make A Positive Impact in Adolescence (Ages 12-18) 

  • Encourage local media to celebrate young people’s successes in all kinds of activities – not just sports – to help create a sense of positive identity. 
  • Recommend young people to plan with the use of agendas and calendars. Help them learn and practice their planning and decision-making skills by engaging them in long-term projects.
  • Establish clear rules with natural consequences to maintain and respect boundaries.  
  • Help the youth find purpose by encouraging them to find new interests. Consider sharing your personal hobbies and passions with them. 
  • Here, you can check out Search Institute’s complete list of 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescence

Applying the Developmental Relationship Framework 

In conjunction with the 40 Developmental factors, the Search Institute’s Developmental Relationship Framework is another guide you can use to have a positive impact. The infographic breaks down the five elements of this framework below:

The current research on developmental relationships shows that young people perform their best when they experience strong, positive developmental relationships. These relationships can manifest in many ways, through many different role models and peers. In addition to this article, Search Institute’s Ideas for Building Developmental Relationships and What We’re Learning about Developmental Relationships explains how adults in different role model positions can craft intentional developmental relationships. 

Our Positive Impact

Lastly, remember that no one person or organization is responsible for developing all 40 assets in a child. Your task as a positive influence in a child’s life is to support them and to help them develop as many assets as you can. It takes a village to raise a child and it is all of our responsibilities to provide them with the resources they need to grow and develop healthily. If you are looking for a way to strengthen your community and give back, consider learning more about how Monroe County CASA serves its local community by clicking here to learn more. 

Written by: Meghan McAneny