Core skills for positive teen development

A special issue of New Directions for Child and Youth Development reviewed development research and linked positive teen development to 5 core skills:

  1. a positive self-image
  2. self-control
  3. decision-making skills
  4. a moral system of belief
  5. prosocial connectedness (from New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, Volume 2008, Issue 122, Pages 1 – 17)

Some of these skills are harder to teach than others. Dr. G and I talked about some ways that dads can pass their values on to their kids (Anatomy of Dad’s Wisdom); we suggested that parents clarify their values and look at the example their behaviour creates for their children, among other things. This might apply to passing on a system of belief as well. Spirituality might be an important factor here – research has shown that spirituality can be protective against anxiety.

Prosocial connections are a common concern for many parents, I think. I commonly recommend that families look for opportunities for their kids to engage in activities in areas of strength or interest – extracurriculars (or “co-curriculars,” to use Dr. G’s term from Anatomy of Extracurriculars). There are several studies linking these activities to positive academic achievement and school connectedness. Organized activities put same-aged children and youth together in a supervised setting to engage in a shared interest. These opportunities might be especially valuable for children with social difficulties, and they may promote the development of skills essential to adolescent adjustment.

A positive self-image, self-control, and decision-making skills may be more difficult to pass on to some children. Therapy is commonly recommended for kids who struggle in these areas. Dr. Ross Greene’s book, The Explosive Child, presents strategies for helping kids and families develop collaborative problem-solving skills; he believes that the skills promoted by collaborative problem-solving can help kids develop self-control and decision-making abilities while validating their feelings. In How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Faber and Mazlish help parents to communicate with their kids (and teens) in an empathic way, which may also promote a positive self-image by showing kids that their feelings are valued. As in Greene’s book, Faber & Mazlish believe that kids will learn to problem-solve and make decisions if they are allowed to talk things out.

If you’d like us to cover these core skills in more detail in a future episode of The Family Anatomy Podcast, leave a comment below or email us at info@familyanatomy.com. Direct message or @reply us on twitter.com/familyanatomy and we might shout out your twitter on the show. Scroll down for comments, or click the “Comments” link above.

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  2. […] listed five “core skills for positive teen development” (we discussed the skills here). Their list included a positive self-image, a moral system, and social connections. Together, the […]