Thriving Indicators

Youth & Mentor

Step-It-Up-2-Thrive supports youth to explore the concept of thriving through conversation with a mentor and in peer group process. In the mentor process, young people consider the Thriving and Risk Factor Wheels and engage in Thriving Conversations, using a set of age-adjusted questions that prompt reflection.The process is described in Tips for Indicator Conversations.

Dr. Peter Benson, former leader of Search Institute, confirms that the central dynamic in the caring adult relationship is the conversation. That two-way dialogue with teens can take considerable skill.

Dr. Peter Benson says, “Central to our youth work is the idea that every kid needs and deserves caring adults. The idea is held up so often that you’d expect great clarity about what caring adults actually means, though this isn’t the case. I think the central dynamic in the caring adult idea is the conversation, the two-way dialogue that engages both youth and adults; a conversation that is sustained.

Three conversation starters – each ubiquitous in our world – are actually conversation stoppers. They are: ‘How’s it goin’?’; ‘How’s school?’, and ‘Was’ up.’ Actually, each one gives kids and adults a free pass for avoiding talking about anything substantive.

It’s one thing to sustain a conversation with a child. It’s a totally different deal trying to launch and keep up a two-way dialogue with teenagers. Robert Reich, the former U.S. Secretary of Labor, recently wrote a compelling Op Ed piece on his relationship with his teenagers. ‘Adolescents’, he says, ‘are like clam shells. Most of the time they are closed tight. Now and then, they open up. When they do,’ he says, ‘be there and take your best shot at keeping the shell open.’

Youth Today,
September 2009

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The central dynamic in the caring adult relationship is the conversation.

—Dr. Peter Benson, former leader, Search Institute

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