September is a month of new beginnings, offering fresh opportunities to build rewarding connections as the school year starts. This is a time when young people come together, often in different groupings, and get to know their new classmates, teachers, coaches, and others through a rich new slate of activities and experiences.
Getting to know others and learning to work well with friends, classmates, and even family members requires that young people first get to know themselves. To form healthy friendships and relationships, they need to understand and appreciate their own strengths, interests, and personality.
Personal investigation is a great place to start! Personal investigation is a process of self-assessment that encourages young people to learn their preferences, expand their strengths, and cultivate their unique personality. It invites them to turn inward and reflect on who they are, evaluating their attitude, health, and goals in all areas of their life.
Supporting young people as they reflect on their strengths and investigate their interests requires our time and attention. It’s hard to watch young people struggle, and preventing frustration and disappointment can feel like the best investment of our resources. But allowing young people to figure out what their strengths are and where they want to put their energies is a project with big rewards! So, as you start the new year, encourage the young people in your care to explore their growing interests and, their likes and dislikes.
OTA talks regularly with educators, mentors, and parents about ways to support young people as they investigate their strengths, preferences, and personality. We’ve included a few of our favorite tips below:
- Normalize and celebrate failure! One educator we spoke to has designated Fridays as the day to celebrate the failures of the week. The class gathers every Friday morning to share failures from the week. They call this time Friday Fails!
- Encourage the young people in your care to try new things: to learn a new language, try out for a different sport, or take up an instrument. Celebrate their experiments and share your successes and failures in trying new things over the years!
- Complete the Wellness Wheel activity with the young people in your care (worksheet included in the Magnets & Mirrors section of this month’s newsletter). Discuss areas of strength and areas that may need improvement.
- Take a strengths-focused approach to supporting the young people in your care. If a young person finds math challenging and is a skilled swimmer, consider connecting them to a swim coach or swim team.
- For every hour a young person spends focused on a weakness or challenge, they should spend two hours focusing on a strength or interest!
- Create opportunities for young people to teach or mentor younger people in their community. Nothing builds confidence more than teaching others (this reminds students that they DO have skills, even in subjects they feel are their weakest!).
OTA is dedicated to fostering connections between youth and the adults in their lives and encouraging young people to reflect on their own inner resources and growth. We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share ways you support young people in your care with personal investigation.
Be who you need(ed)!