teen boy and his father or another caring male figure walking with arms around each other talking

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The simple fact is that young people are more likely to grow up happy, healthy, and successfully able to take care of themselves when they have positive relationships with important people in their lives called “Developmental Relationships.”

Development relationships are close connections with peers, family, and adults which help the child discover their own identity, cultivate life-skills, and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them.

A recent study by Search Institute showed 20 specific actions that make relationships powerful for young people.

It is important to remember that a relationship with a child is still a relationship. The things we do for children are not all that different than the things we should do in our relationships with other adults. The difference is that with children, honesty, trust, and support helps them define their sense of self-worth and value. Adults can do this in a variety of ways.

Express Care

When you have children in your life, the simplest and most important thing you can do for them is let them see that they matter to you.

  • Be someone they can trust
  • Pay attention to them when you are together
  • Make them feel known and valued
  • Show them you enjoy being with them
  • Praise efforts and achievements

Challenge Growth


Personal growth and resilience comes from healthy conflict or “positive stress.” Pushing the kids in your life to grow and improve doesn’t mean that you tell them your love, support, and approval depends on them attaining accolades. It just means that you help them reach their potential through positive support.

You can do this by:

  • Expecting them to live up to their potential
  • Push them to always do their best by setting “stretch goals”
  • Make them take responsibility for their actions and choices
  • Reflect on failures as learning opportunities so that they can learn

Provide Support

It is important to show support to kids. They are just learn their place in the world and trying to navigate through it. They need your support to learn how to handle difficult situations, develop confidence, and learn how to manage stress in healthy ways.

Adults can provide support by:

  • Guiding kids through hard situations and systems
  • Building their confidence through empowering them to solve their problems
  • Advocating for them by standing up for them when they need it
  • Setting boundaries to help them stay on track and stay safe

Share Power

The relationship you have with your children is unique among relationships in your life because there is such a huge difference in the power dynamic. Few other relationships will have such a unbalanced power dynamic, so it is important to give kids some power in the relationship so that they can learn how to make decisions and life skills.

You can do this by:

  • Respecting their voice, ideas, and perspective and treating them fairly
  • Including them in decisions that affect them
  • Collaborating with them to solve problems and reach goals
  • Create opportunities to let them lead or take action

Expand Possibilities

One of the best things you can do for kids is help them to see what’s possible and help them have expectations for themselves and their futures. Help them connect the choices they make today with a bright, promising future by connecting them with people and places that broaden their horizons.

Do this by:

  • Inspiring them to see possibilities for their futures by helping them recognized talents and passions
  • Broaden their horizons by exposing them to new ideas, experiences, and places
  • Connect them with people who can help them grow through clubs, youth groups, and volunteer activities

If you need help strengthening your relationship with your child(ren), Idaho Youth Ranch can help.

We offer proven therapies for families, kids, and groups that help bring young people and their parents back together with trauma-informed, compassionate support.

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