Growing up in an Air Force family, we moved to a new state every 3 years. The highs and lows of making
new friends, trying out for new sports teams and learning our way around each strange new place
became a natural way of life. Acclimating to the new community’s norms and nuances became integral
to a successful assimilation into each new town.
My parents deserve the credit for making each of those 6 transitions to unfamiliar places and faces an
exciting opportunity for growth and new interpersonal connections. By the time I was 12, I had
participated in piano lessons/competitions, ballet/tap/jazz recitals, Girl Scout cookie sales, school band
‘first chair’ competitions, community softball play-offs, school athletic’s camaraderie and student
council officer elections!
Each one of these experiences could have been a full-time endeavor, yet my parents allowed me to try a
variety of extracurriculars during my formative years to give me, what may be one of the keys to our
childrens’ success: constructive use of time with meaningful connections. Whether they were aware of
it or not, my parents set me up for life success by providing me these opportunities to grow both socially
and emotionally with a set of tools in my developmental toolkit.
The Search Institute has identified 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to
succeed. Half of the assets focus on the relationships and opportunities they need in their families,
schools, and communities (external assets). The remaining assets focus on the social-emotional
strengths, values, and commitments that are nurtured within young people (internal assets).
According to the Search-Institute’s 60+ years of research, these 40 Developmental Assets, when
accumulated by a young person, support the healthy social and emotional well-being and development
as they grow into young adults. (www.search-institute.org)
Within the ‘Constructive Use of Time’ category, the primary focus for the tools is providing
opportunities—outside of school—to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and
adults. More specifically within the youth programs sub-category is a guideline for a good foundation in
building this asset: “each young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or
organizations at school and/or in community organizations” (Search Institute.)
Allowing our kids to experience a wide array of team and/or group activities, creates the ability for the
development of certain strategies in their personal toolkits for success, win or lose, team or solo, conflict
or cooperation. These skills translate easily into tools expected of them in becoming happy, socialized,
Parents can model and influence a variety of skill sets described within the Search Institute’s framework
that when assimilated into the child’s life, are the underpinning for the child’s social-emotional skills
foundation. This foundation gives way to success when we experience failure, rejection, isolation and
anger as well as joy and ability to show good sportsmanship and collaboration. These assets provide
kids with tools to more successfully communicate their ideas, feelings and concerns.
By teaching/inserting these Search Institute assets in your child/teen’s toolkit (read: yours, too, since
you’ll be modeling much of them to your kiddos) you become their most important, consistent,
trustworthy “life’ coach.
Another relevant area of the Developmental Assets Framework for the purposes of this article is the
Boundaries and Expectations category. These specific tools are connected to a variety of protective
factors that create a safety net around our kid’s developing brains as they navigate negative peer
pressure situations, manage the disappointment of not making ‘the team’ at school, making their first B
(or C!), or running unsuccessfully for a class officer position.
Setting clear, high (but fair) expectations is imperative for our kids, as is spelling out the specific
consequences beforehand as well. Here’s the tougher part: following through on those consequences,
How does this affect our young person’s toolkit within the team or group activities that they’re involved
in? Just look at the Social Competencies Section of the 40 Assets Framework:
● Planning and decision-making—Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
● Interpersonal competence—Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
● Cultural competence—Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different
● Resistance skills— Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
● Peaceful conflict resolution—Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.
The take-away here for impactful ‘coaching’ of our kiddos as they experience the ups and the downs of
our competitive society is that we, the parents, CAN equip our developing young adults with practical,
research-proven tools. See www.search-institute.org for the full list of assets, research support and
programs immersed with the assets as it can be used as your ‘playbook’ for parenting! These tools can
be modeled and rehearsed, and feedback can be provided to our kids while they’re still in our homes,
under our supervision. We are their role models, their mentors, their coaches…and they’re biggest fans!
This article was written by Kathleen Hassenfratz, LPC of KH Counseling and Inspiration and Founder of
the local nonprofit, Tune Into Life. www.laketraviscounseling.com or www.tuneintolife.org