Don’t Forget the Families The Missing Piece in America’s Effort to Help All Children Succeed

Big Brothers Big Sisters

header-family_1_1Preparing all children and youth to live productive and fulfilling lives is a critical responsibility and opportunity for society. Thanks in part to a recent movement for collective impact, schools, programs, and entire communities are increasingly working together to achieve that objective.

Part of the challenge is that too many institutions and professionals have largely given up on families, believing that the challenges families face and the problems they sometimes create are beyond their reach and responsibility. As a result, sometimes those institutions ignore families. Other times they set up systems and supports that compensate for the failures they perceive in families. And even when schools and programs do engage families, they typically focus on asking parents to support the work of the school or program through activities such as serving on committees, helping with homework, fundraising, and volunteering to lead programs. All of these approaches—from ignoring family engagement altogether to involving parents in the work of schools and programs—overlook the one thing about which parents care deeply and that can powerfully benefit their children’s development: relationships in the home.

Based on a study of 1,085 U.S. parenting adults of 3 to 13 year olds, Don’t Forget the Families makes the case that strengthening family relationships is a critical but undervalued strategy for helping children learn and grow up successfully. It introduces a framework of developmental relationships, which articulates concrete actions that families can intentionally embrace and consistently practice that help children develop the character strengths they need as they grow up. In the process, this report offers a fresh, potentially powerful approach to unleashing the capacities of families to be more active contributors to the schools, organizations, and communities that serve their children.

Developmental relationships are close connections through which young people develop the character strengths to discover who they are, gain the ability to shape their own lives, and learn how to interact with and contribute to others. These relationships are characterized by five essential actions, each of which is described from the perspective of a young person: 1. Express Care: Show that you like me and want the best for me. 2. Challenge Growth: Insist that I try to continuously improve. 3. Provide Support: Help me complete tasks and achieve goals. 4. Share Power: Hear my voice and let me share in making decisions. 5. Expand Possibility: Expand my horizons and connect me to opportunities.

At least seven out of ten parenting adults reported that they take the following actions in their relationships with children frequently and effectively: Express Care, Provide Support, and Challenge Growth. The two remaining actions are taken less often and less effectively: Share Power and Expand Possibility.

Take a look at the full article here: http://www.search-institute.org/downloadable/SearchInstitute-DontForgetFamilies-Summary-10-13-2015.pdf

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