Strengthen youth-adult partnerships as a protective factor for young people

Increasing positive networks with adults can help young people succeed.

When young people and adults come together around a table to make decisions, young people learn planning and leadership skills while building their confidence by sharing their voice. Adults also benefit from the creative ideas and enthusiasm of young people. Positive youth-adult partnerships can also provide important safeguards for young people as they face life’s challenges by expanding adults’ network of positive influences. cites several protective factors that can reduce youth engagement in substance use. Among the long list of protective factors, several can be cultivated through positive youth-adult partnerships. These include:

  • Presence of mentors and support for the development of skills and interests
  • Opportunities for school and community engagement
  • Relationship with adults outside the family

Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program encourages supportive youth-adult partnerships through participation in their 4-H clubs and activities. Michigan 4-H strives to create safe spaces for youth by screening volunteers and enabling youth to participate equally with adults in decision-making for local and community-wide programs. the state. The Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles reiterate the importance of this work, citing:

  • Young people have positive relationships with adults and their peers.
  • Young people actively participate in their own development.
  • Young people are seen as participants rather than beneficiaries in the learning process.

Treating young people as equals in decision-making alongside adults may seem simple, but it is best enforced through intentional training. To build effective youth-adult partnerships with your 4-H club, group or community organization, contact a leadership, civic and cultural engagement educator for resources and training.

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