Marge Kennedy once said, “In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit”.
The type of support Mrs. Kennedy speaks of is, for many, provided first by our family, and later by peers, teachers, and other adults. According to Search Institute, who listed Family Support as Asset #1 of the 40 Developmental Assets, there is a strong relationship between effective family support and positive childhood outcomes, particularly higher academic achievement, healthy peer relationships, effective family communication, positive behavioral adjustment, and better mental health.
There are many variations of family including biological, extended, foster families, guardians etc… Regardless of how people have come together, the word "family" implies warmth, a place where the feelings of the heart are nurtured, where security and support act as a buffer against external problems. Families grow and move through life together, inseparable in the heart.
The good news is that according to a national Search Institute survey, 64% of the youth surveyed felt they had Family Support in their lives. What about the other 36% of youth? How can parents/guardians make them feel loved and supported? The other piece of good news is it’s easy! Hug them or say, “I love you,” don’t assume they know how much you love them. Pay attention to them, listen to them, and take an interest in what they’re doing. Let your love for them show in the way you look at them, the words you say, your tone of voice, and your body language. Make it a point to be sure they hear your message of love and support loud and clear at all times. Develop openness so that the children in your family know that you’re available and you’ll love them—no matter what.
If Marge Kennedy was correct in her statement “A family is what you make it” than you as a parent/guardian have the influence to shape your child’s life. Youth are longing for the kinds of rituals, connections, memories, love and support only a family can provide.
“Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.