Editor’s Note: Relationship quality is an important aspect of mentoring success and working with youth in general. A new report from the Search Institute finds that relationships outside the family can be highly beneficial to help youth heal and work through trauma. This report also addresses the notion that relationships are static, and can’t be improved. Instead, they should be thought of as dynamics to invest in and deliberately try to improve. Read below for more about the importance of non-family relationships and how they apply to mentoring:
If you work with youth, you probably know about the significance of relationships in the lives of young people.
Specifically, research shows that the most important factor leading to positive outcomes for a young person is a relationship with a caring adult. This information holds enormous potential for helping youth thrive.
Outside the youth development field, however, people are not as aware of the possibilities for providing young people with beneficial relationships.
Now the Search Institute has pointed out specific gaps in public perception. Based in Minneapolis, the Search Institute is a nonprofit that conducts and applies research to promote positive youth development.
First of all, people often think that an adult’s ability to form good relationships with young people is born, not made, said Kent Pekel, Search Institute president and executive director. The thinking is that there are certain people — teachers, mentors, coaches — who are “relationship gurus” and that what they do can’t be replicated, he said.
In fact, relationship capabilities are not fixed but can be built, he said. The Search Institute offers training in how to create relationships with youth that express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power and expand possibilities. Those are the five ingredients in relationships that promote a young person’s positive development, according to the organization.
A recent report created for the Search Institute looked at additional gaps in understanding about developmental relationships.
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