Today’s young people are growing up in a confusing world. Many kids lack the positive interactions needed to understand the negativity that can surround them. This lack of positive interaction produces feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Children are our future and shouldn’t have to struggle in this way. 

Because of this, youth need more guidance and support than ever before. If we can equip youth with the tools they need to navigate the world, we won’t be coddling them but instead helping them stand on their own two feet. Understanding what goes into youth development might help you step into a child’s life and help them become their best self.

Youth development programs help kids realize their full potential by preparing them for the challenges of life. By engaging young people in experiential learning programs, we can teach life skills beyond textbooks and lectures. What are commonly called “soft skills” are the building blocks of life skills that can make a difference in how young people engage in the world. These programs teach Social Emotional Learning (SEL), leadership skills, and character education and offer physical activities that provide rich sensory feedback from complex environments. Combining soft skills education with real-world experiences provides a more robust activation of the critical neurotransmitter system. This system includes the brain chemicals vital to the formation of attention, long-term memory, and behavioral change. In some instances, physical activity in natural environments increases by 500 percent of the neural chemical activity necessary to form long-term memory.

According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Social Emotional Learning is an integral part of education and human development. This process is how all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities and manage emotions. It is how we achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible, caring decisions. The CASEL 5 addresses five broad and interrelated areas of competence and highlights illustrative examples for each: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. The CASEL 5 can be taught and applied at various developmental stages from childhood to adulthood and across diverse cultural contexts. Many school districts, states, and countries have used the CASEL 5 to establish preschool to high school learning standards and competencies that articulate what students should know and can do for academic success, school and civic engagement, health and wellness, and fulfilling careers. 

Youth leadership skill development provides young people with the ability to analyze their strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and promote self-esteem, confidence, and motivation. Leadership skill development also helps young people establish support networks to participate in community life fully and affect positive social change. Leadership training includes teaching participants to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence the opinions and behaviors of others, and serve as role models.

Character Education is the process of teaching kids values that are known to lead to a well-rounded human being. Values such as respect, responsibility, compassion, kindness, caring, empathy, and cooperation can build the foundation needed to make positive life choices and engage with others in a way that creates accepting and trusting communities.

Youth development happens wherever youth are engaged in growth, learning, and life. Schools, homes, sporting activities, community programs, and social media are areas where youth development (both good and bad) happens. Youth development researchers and practitioners emphasize that effective programs and interventions recognize youths’ strengths and promote positive development rather than addressing risks in isolation. Young people who are constructively involved in learning and doing and who are connected to positive adults and peers are less likely to engage in risky or self-defeating behaviors.  

Providing the conditions for positive youth development is a responsibility shared by families, schools, and communities. 

Families promote healthy youth development when they:

  • Are supportive
  • Create a positive family communication
  • Are involved with school and social activities
  • Create clear rules, boundaries, and consequences 
  • Know where their kids are
  • Create opportunities for the youth to interact with other positive role models 
  • Have clear expectations for their child
  • Spend time together

Schools promote healthy youth development when they:

  • Gain commitment from the youth
  • Create a caring and safe school climate
  • Provide clear rules and consequences
  • Provide positive adult role models
  • Set clear expectations for young people to do well

Communities promote healthy youth development when:

  • Caring adults advocate for youth
  • The entire neighborhood monitor youths’ behavior
  • All adults model positive, responsible, and healthy behavior (remember kids learn more from seeing and doing than they do from reading)
  • Other older youth model positive, responsible, and healthy behavior

It is unusual for all these positive influences to be present simultaneously; unfortunately, too many young people grow up in circumstances that provide limited support for healthy development. 

At PureGame, we believe in the power of life skills education for all young people. Children are our future, and we need to provide them with solid building blocks to create a successful life. PureGame offers young people a program that teaches Social Emotional Learning, leadership skills, and character education, and we do it all through physical activities and sport. PureGame exists to create and deliver programs that improve self-esteem, bolster mental health, increase resiliency, and help combat negative feelings. 

PureGame kids learn, laugh, and come together through sport. They leave the field each day knowing they have what it takes to be successful.