Academy Advice

LA Family Support--January

The Developmental Relationships Framework

Young people are more likely to grow up successfully when they experience developmental relationships with important people in their lives. Developmental relationships are close connections through which young people discover who they are, cultivate abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them.

When kids experience these five keys in their relationships with parents, they develop attitudes and skills that will help them throughout their lives. They become more resilient, and that helps them overcome the challenges they face.

Search Institute has identified five elements that make relationships powerful in young people's lives. (Source: Each month we will highlight one of the elements and share practical ways to build this in your child.

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Developmental Relationships: Express Care

Each young person is different. Boys can be different from girls. One child may respond differently from another. The key is to listen to each child. Find what works to keep you connected, even if how you connect needs to change. Try these tips for adjusting how you express care, particularly as kids move into the teen years:

  1. Ask them what they want. What are they comfortable with? Is it okay to give them a hug if no one is around? If just family is around?
  2. Adjust. Instead of a hug, give a pat on the shoulder or back. Caring words might be enough when physical affection is off limits.
  3. Respect boundaries and privacy. A hug before they head out the door for school may go over better than a hug in front of all their friends.
  4. Spend time together—and not just doing chores or homework. A few minutes of undivided attention lets them know they’re important to you. You enjoy being with them.
  5. Do physical things together. Play basketball. Run. Build something. Work out. Do what works best for your family.
  6. Keep smiling, joking, and laughing together—even if it means laughing at yourself.
  7. Try not to take it too personally. Don’t assume that a rejection one day will mean the same thing will happen tomorrow. Remember that kids are working through all kinds of feelings.

Discussion Starters to Grow How You Express Care

  • When are times you've felt close as a family? What made that time memorable?
  • What sacrifices have others made for your family? How have those sacrifices affected you?
  • What do you enjoy doing together as a family that you have not been able to do lately? What do you enjoy about it?

Now, take those ideas and intentionally plan something for your family in the next week!

Discussion Questions for Other Parenting Adults*

  1. What are meaningful ways that you express care in your family, culture, or tradition?
  2. Which of the five areas of expressing care are most comfortable for you? Which areas are most challenging?
  3. How has expressing care changed as your kids have grown up? How have you adjusted?
  4. What are ways you maintain your warmth, dependability, and interest when your kids do things that you really don’t enjoy—or even that you disapprove of?

*These parenting adults may include your spouse or partner, extended family members, friends who are parents, or a parent group or class.

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