Creating Connections

U of MN Extension graphic

July 2021

By Carrie Ann Olson, Extension Educator, Associate Extension Professor

After a year of living in a pandemic, things are starting to open up and we are all enjoying getting to do the things we enjoy.  For youth this may mean more in-person activities, like sports, project trainings and club meetings.  In this post-pandemic world, our minds will easily focus more on sanitizing surfaces and physical distancing, but it’s the relationships that are essential to young people’s growth, learning, and thriving.

Thirty-six percent of respondents to a recent national survey of approximately 950 Americans reported feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” in the prior four weeks, compared with 25 percent prior to the pandemic.  More surprising, 61 percent of young adults reported this high level of loneliness.  While we do not know the specific reasons why more young people are feeling this way, it may be in part to the due to the critical decisions they are making about their personal life, school, and relationship.

We know the when young people experience developmental relationships with parents, educators, youth program staff, and other adults their outcomes are better, their risk behaviors are lower, and they are more likely to be on the path to thrive in life.  So how do we restart and / or strengthen these relationships with the youth we are involved with?  We know that strong relationships are dynamic and changing; evolve as the people in them grow.  How people interact with each other is unique for each relationship.  Being intentional about listening is one of the many influencing factors in a relationship and a great place to start.

After interviewing hundreds of young people, Search Institute has identified 6 elements and actions that support developmental relationships by creating connections that help young people thrive. Review the elements of Express Care, Challenge Growth, Provide Support, Share Power, and Expand Possibilities in the chart to understand each elements actions, and definitions.

Thriving essential elements chart

Now more than ever, the youth in your life need you to reach out and connect with them.  Be a neighbor, be a coach, be a mentor or a club leader, and you can help decrease the post pandemic loneliness while making a big difference in the lives of youth.

For more information, please contact me, [email protected]