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Relationships matter

By Karen Beranek

As youth development professionals, building relationships with youth, their families and our co-workers is such an obvious part of our work, we may not put much thought into it. We know asking youth about their day or something big happening in their lives is a great conversation starter or check-in question. We have all likely heard the quote, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care", most often attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt.

As a 4-H Youth Development professional, the 4-H Thriving Model was the focus of my most recent blog post. At the very foundation of this model is research led by the Search Institute, grounded in the concept that relationships matter. The Five Elements of Developmental Relationships show us how we can focus our conversations while building relationships with young people. 
  • Express care - Show me that I matter to you.
  • Challenge growth - Push me to keep getting better.
  • Provide support - Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.
  • Share power - Treat me with respect and give me a say.
  • Expand possibilities - Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.

For most of us, some of these five elements come more naturally than others. For me, expressing care and making an intentional effort to check-in when I am not in the same space as young people is an area of growth. When hearing some of this research, I felt motivated to check in with a first-year college student leading up to finals week. She responded within an hour sharing some concerns and thanking me for asking. Gosh, it was just a two-line chat that took me less than two minutes to draft and send. Her response may have been a bit more than two lines, but her knowing I cared - that stuck with her. 

What easy or hard steps have you taken to intentionally and consistently build relationships with young people? Which of these five elements do you want to learn more about and prioritize more with the young people in your program?

-- Karen Beranek, Extension educator

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  1. Karen, thank you for highlighting the need young people (and all of us have) of being noticed. In a time and society that often lives in information overload, taking intentional time to reach out, show care, and be available is empowering.

    How can we make this a daily habit?
    What would we have to give up in our day(s), week(s) or month(s) to ensure we create opportunities for these intentional connections?

    1. I approach it as a mindset where I have seen such impact from building connections, that then when the next project needs to happen, time is actually saved because the foundational relationship and working styles are already known. Or I can be the connector of others because I know of this common passion area these two individuals share.

      In a more practical daily habit sense - I attempt to start conversations with a real question. Of course the weather and what you ate last night can lead to conversation, asking youth (or colleagues) more relevant questions about themselves leads to deeper conversations generally faster.


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