Building youth with the 5 Cs: Connection

How can adults help young people feel connected to others and their community?

Positive youth development builds on Lerner’s 5 C’s. The 5 C’s are competence, confidence, connection, caring/compassion and character. When a person has fully realized all five, a sixth C, contribution, is attained. This series by Michigan State University Extension looks at each C and ways adults can encourage the development of these assets.

Connection is defined as having positive bonds with people and institutions that are reflected in exchanges. These exchanges can occur between the individual and their peers, family, school and community in which both parties contribute to the relationship.

Connection is built over time as relationships grow and strengthen. Youth also develop connections when they have opportunities to contribute to their community. Think of connection as the feeling of being an important part of something. Youth will feel more connected to their school if they are involved in a sport, club, government or other group. They may feel connected to adults who ask their opinion or those who make time to talk about their interests and dreams.

What can you do to build connection? The first thing you can do is help a young person build relationships and relationship skills. As connection is formed through healthy relationships, it is important for young people to know how to form and sustain relationships. Relationship skills include active listening, communicating effectively and mutual respect. Relationships require both parties to participate. You can give youth choices in your relationships rather than dictate what will happen. Allow young people to choose where you will go, what you will do or what you will eat when you spend time together.

You can help a young person build connection to an institution or community in a variety of ways. Volunteering is a great way to build connection. Attending community activities such as parades, festivals or sporting events is another way to increase connectedness. People often feel more connected when they are actively involved, so look for opportunities for young people to share ideas and talents.

By helping a young person gain connection, you contribute to positive youth development and help prepare a young person for success. The next article in this series will focus on the fourth C, caring/compassion.

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