Effective Communication and Positive Youth Development
Positive youth development is a strengths-based approach that describes how youth’s experiences and relationships promote assets which enable them to thrive in their environment. (12, 13) Through this approach, youth programs can create activities that provide opportunities for youth to learn new skills and develop supportive relationships with their peers and staff. (1)Youth programs also provide a space for youth to make meaningful connections with non-parental adults. (1) Effective communication is essential for facilitating the development of positive and supportive relationships between youth program staff and youth. In addition, youth programs that are able to effectively convey program expectations and rules for constructive behaviors are more effective than programs that do not talk about behavioral expectations. (4) Regardless of the type of youth program, youth can develop interpersonal skills (6, 3) by being in a caring relationship with staff who can model effective communication. (7) Therefore, the ability to effectively communicate with youth is foundational for youth program staff in order to promote positive youth development. (8, 9) There are eight features considered essential for a high-quality youth program: (1) physical and psychological safety; (2) appropriate structure; (3) supportive relationships; (4) opportunities to belong; (5) positive social norms; (6) support for efficacy and mattering; (7) opportunities for skill building; and (8) integration of family, school, and community efforts. (6) Learning how to effectively communicate with youth can support all eight of these elements. To help youth program staff develop their competency in communication, this training will cover important developmental, biological, social, and environmental factors that may influence communication with youth, as well as strategies for youth program staff to improve interpersonal communication with youth.