This is the last of our 6-part series on family relationships. Click to read parts one and two, three, four and five. All of the blog posts in this series are focused on how families can use Search Institute’s Developmental Relationship Framework–the key elements of strong relationships–as their kids transition to middle or high school.]
What is Expanding Possibilities?
Expanding possibilities for teens means “connect me with people and places that broaden my world.” These three everyday actions expand possibilities as kids transition to middle or high school:
- Inspire me to see possibilities for my future.
- Broaden horizons in my world by exposing me to new ideas, experiences, and places.
- Connect me to others by introducing me to people who can help me grow.
Why Expanding Possibilities Is Important
Helping kids build relationships opens doors for them and enlarges their world–all valuable tools as they enter into their teen years.
By connecting with people, places, and experiences, our kids…
- Explore new possibilities and find new opportunities.
- Find out how the world works and how to make their way in it. This includes education, work, housing, health services, and civic life.
- Learn how to hold meaningful, responsible roles in society.
- Discover more about themselves and what matters.
- Develop allies who look out for them, particularly if they run into crises, prejudice, or other barriers.
- Understand how to respectfully engage with new cultures and nationalities.
But parents can sometimes feel uneasy about expanding possibilities. As children transition into their teens, they spend more and more time with other people and explore new ideas. That can all be worrisome for parents. We want to protect our kids. What will they pick up from those other adults, ideas, and experiences? Will other people meddle? Will our kids turn to them instead of to us?
But here’s the good news: relationships with other adults usually improve teens’ relationships with their parents. When kids are exposed to other ideas, they learn and grow—particularly when they talk to their family about what they’re learning from others.
Tips for Expanding Possibilities
- Show your child how to ask for help when they need it and help your child practice that skill. For example, when they want something in a restaurant or store, encourage your child to ask a waiter or clerk for help rather than doing it for your child.
- Volunteer together. Ask your child for ideas of causes or places where they would like to volunteer.
- Find opportunities for your child to spend time with people of different cultures and in different vocations.
- Expose your child to new music, art, or activities.
- Introduce your child to other trustworthy adults who have a hobby or interest that your child shares.
Encourage your child to think about both adults and other kids they interact with at home, in your extended family, at school, in afterschool programs, in the community, and in other places. Invite your child to think about…
- Who do you think really cares about you?
- Who tells you that you should work on things to make improvements?
- Who helps you do things?
- Who really listens to you and who sometimes lets you decide things for yourself?
- Who tells you about new things, takes you to new places, and introduces you to new people?
If your child names people you don’t know, ask questions to learn more about them.
Developmental relationships can be built everywhere, and helping your teen make vital connections is an important part of the transition to middle and high school.
Do you work with middle or high school kids in a school or program? We would like to offer you the opportunity to download an 80-minute workshop curriculum for parents called RELATIONSHIPS THAT MATTER: 5 Keys to Helping Your Child Succeed (Available in English and Spanish).
With this single session workshop, you can help parents understand and focus on five areas of parent-child relationships that are key to their youth’s success in school and other areas of life. You can also create a stronger connection with the parents of the youth in your school or program.