“I work with 7th-grade students and they were having, at the beginning of the school year, a lot of struggles just thinking about anything past tomorrow. I’d ask them what they wanted to do with their lives or what they saw themselves doing when they grew up… I didn’t get some very good answers. So, now they’re actually thinking about college, they’re thinking about their futures.” -– School program staff member
Expanding horizons and building new relationships help young people envision a positive future. Through connecting with other people, places, and experiences, they:
Looking at new possibilities involves trying new things, going new places, and meeting new people. Expanding possibilities involves three actions in the developmental relationships framework:
Connections with trustworthy, caring adults do not happen for many kids. Often young people have no positive contact with caring adults beyond their parents and teachers. Parents, teachers, program leaders, and others can help kids connect with other caring adults who can broaden horizons for them.
Expanding possibilities means we respect the “loose ties” we have with people and places beyond the “close ties” we have with immediate family and friends.
The specific role of these trustworthy, caring adults is not as important as the kind of relationship they form with kids. These non-parenting adults can include:
Young people who have positive non-parent connections in their lives are more likely to:
“We were fortunate enough to have mentors that were there for us and helped us realize that we are capable of doing whatever we want, as long as we work hard.” – Young person in a mentorship program
Expanding possibilities is part of a broader relationship that includes expressing care and providing support. As illustrated by the diagram below, the combination of those provides a secure base where they can explore who they are and develop the autonomy they need for life.
Sometimes things don’t go well when a young person tries new things. The new activity doesn’t go well and they experience disappointment. In those cases, the connections with caring adults can be a safe haven to help the young person regroup and try something else. Providing a secure base from which the young person can explore the world calls on parents and other adult leaders to be encouraging, available, and not to interfere as young people try new things. Providing a safe haven when things don’t go well requires being available, reassuring, and providing comfort as needed.
How do you expand possibilities for the young people in your life? Leave a comment below to share with us!