Being, Belonging, Becoming: Minnesota's Adolescent Health Action Plan
Healthy Youth Development
Adolescent Development: “...the ongoing growth process in which all youth are engaged in attempting to 1) meet their basic personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, be valued, be useful, and be spiritually grounded, and 2) build skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives.”
Adolescent development is a process that all youth experience as they move through their teenage years toward adulthood. There are specific developmental tasks that all youth need to accomplish in order to enter adulthood well-prepared, yet young people develop in unique ways as they move through adolescence. This is known as “youth development.” The developmental tasks of adolescence build on the developmental experiences of childhood and lay the foundation for adulthood.
The developmental tasks of adolescence are best described by the theme of being, belonging and becoming:
Being refers to “defining who I am” (physical, psychological, spiritual) and has to do with personal values, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors. These developmental tasks revolve around defining a clear sense of identity, a positive sense of self worth and control over one’s life.
Belonging refers to “finding my place in the world” and has to do with a young person’s fit with their environment (physical, social, community). These developmental tasks focus on the ability to form healthy relationships with others, using available support systems, finding a valued place in their world and finding ways to be useful to others.
Becoming refers to “achieving my personal goals, hopes and aspirations.” These developmental tasks include mastering social skills, developing lifelong learning habits, developing a sense of curiosity and exploration, seeing a promising future with real opportunities, acquiring skills to participate in our economy and establishing a respect for diversity
Young people who successfully complete these developmental tasks are better prepared to make a successful transition from adolescence into adulthood. Supporting youth as they grapple with the changes and challenges of adolescence contributes to their health and well-being. Clearly, young people who are not given healthy outlets for growth are likely to find potentially harmful alternatives.
Healthy youth development is a process. The goal is to support young people as they engage in and move through this process in healthy ways. To develop in healthy ways, young people need:
- Opportunities to develop and strengthen connections to caring, supportive, responsible adults, including parents, family members, and other adults. Young people need healthy relationships with a circle of people who provide high expectations, support and guidance.
- Opportunities for active learning. These opportunities help young people develop critical thinking and reasoning skills.
- Opportunities to develop and sharpen social skills. Youth need effective social skills in order to develop healthy relationships and become successfully involved in the world around them. These skills include an ability to understand emotions and practice self discipline, work with others, develop decision-making and problem-solving skills, develop effective communication skills, etc.
- Opportunities to experiment in healthy ways. Experimentation is the process by which adolescents “try on” new behaviors, beliefs and values. Teens need opportunities to safely explore and experiment.
- Opportunities for real participation. This includes opportunities for leadership, for giving back to others and for participating in a full range of community life.
- Opportunities to succeed. Adolescents need opportunities to explore their diverse interests without criticism. They also need to be recognized for their involvement and successes in these activities.
- Opportunities for exposure to the world of work. This includes career training, volunteer community service and job experience.
- Opportunities to develop and strengthen a sense of citizenship. This includes experiences that build an understanding of
our nation’s values and history, the young person’s community,
and their racial, ethnic or cultural group. These
opportunities strengthen the desire of young people to
contribute to the broader good.
- Safety. Young people need safety at home, school and in the community.
In general, adolescents need to be surrounded by safe places, challenging experiences and caring people to develop in healthy ways.
“In addition to skills, young people must have a solid sense of safety and structure, membership and belonging, mastery and sense of purpose, responsibility and self worth.”
Keeping the glass full:
Prevention plus promotion
equals youth success