Greetings from central Minnesota!
Late September has always been my favorite time of the year and represents an introduction to the harvest season. The colors are changing rapidly, crops are ripening, the leaves are falling and there is a chill in the air. For a farm kid, this is a pretty exciting time of the year for me.
The kids have been back to school for nearly a month in Minnesota and I can’t believe “mid-terms” are next week for several of the school districts we work with. For some students this is an exciting time and for others this can be a tough time for kids who experience isolation in their own youth culture. Students who struggle to fit in or find belonging are at a significantly higher risk for experience mental health issues, engage in delinquent behaviors, experience poor academic outcomes, low self-esteem, and have a poor self-concept (Keen, 2004).
Positive youth development attempt’s to nurture the development of each youth’s strengths and potentials (Nixon, 2005). Helping youth to feel more confident in their skills and abilities rather than focusing on their problems is less stigmatizing and may help these youth feel more confident in their skills and ability; helping them to experience acceptance by others (Shek, Siu, & Lee, 2007). Social skill proficiency or social competence are not only benefits of successful social interactions they are also necessary for social inclusion. Feeling confident about their skills would be difficult without a social context with which to identify (Erikson, 1970). Without opportunities to participate in a peer group, youth are at-risk for not developing necessary social and life skills and need to be afforded the opportunity to participate through afterschool or community based programs. Unfortunately, many of these programs or opportunities are missing for marginalized students and as mid-terms approach many of these students are beginning to experience further isolation and need extra support that they are afraid to ask for or don’t know that they need. Engaging these kids in the school setting is difficult because school faculty and staff are overwhelmed with all of the tasks of the day and in many cases, these folks may lack the training to be successful in supporting these youth effectively.
So how do we reach these students and meet their needs? What are their barriers to experiencing success? How can caregivers, school personnel, and community-based providers identify these barriers and needs and effectively meet these students (and families) where they are at? These questions will be addressed in upcoming blog entries with practical ideas for parenting, mentor-ship, and mental health providers to consider as avenues to support these youth throughout the year as well as forward thinking ideas and recommendations for experiential-based learning opportunities which can provide a social context for these youth to increase their personal and social competencies increasing their confidence and self-esteem through real achievement.
Please post your own comments or suggestions to this blog and I will attempt to address them in upcoming blogs. Happy Harvest!!!
CEO Crow River Family Services