Parenting Toolbox

The Importance of Community and the 41 Assets 


By Lynn L., Mom to Surfin’ Second Grader Emilia and Sparkly Diamond Gianna

The topic of community has been on my mind a lot lately. As I watch the news, I am saddened by what is going on around us. I also just watched the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which made me think even more deeply about this topic. I want to focus on the idea of community and explore how we can make a difference by helping our children build assets, such as the 41 Assets from Project Cornerstone (many of which will be referenced in italics in this article).

What is community? How big or small is it, and who is in it? I recently sat in on the Project Cornerstone “Take It Personally” class, and was reminded of all of our roles in our communities. We have a wonderful chance to make an impact on those around us.

When I think back on those who have influenced me, I realize that family, teachers, school counselors, neighbors and others in my life may not know the impact they had on me. Now, fast-forward to my children — who will influence them? As a parent, I put a lot of thought into who my daughters are around, what they do, and who they will be when they grow up, as I am sure most of us do. I also think about the individuals I interact with and what type of impact I might have on their lives. All of us can make an impact in the lives of those around us, and sometimes the smallest gestures can make a huge difference.

Many of us chose Village because of the sense of community. At Village, we have a chance to connect with both children and adults. My children see that I am participating and helping our school community. Whether in the classroom, on the playground or at lunch time, we are building valuable assets (other adult relationships, a caring school climate, parent involvement in schooling, adult role models, bonding to school, to name a few). These assets help our children feel supported, and in turn will hopefully help them make positive choices. I am also so grateful that my children have other adults to turn to. When I ask, “who are the adults you can go to if you need something?” they give me a list of names, many from Village. Why is this important? Because I cannot be there 24/7, and I know they are not alone. More importantly, they know they are not alone.

We can also be proud of the work our children do at Village. One example is Rise Against Hunger. Recently, for the third year in a row our school participated in this wonderful event that brings awareness to those around the world who are hungry and live in poverty. My girls love Rise Against Hunger and feel very proud to be part of it. Events like this bring awareness on a local and global level. By participating in these types of acts, our children are aware of the needs of others, are building empathy, and are further developing assets (caring, equality and social justice, sense of purpose and service to others).

Our children can be negatively influenced by the media. But they are also watching and learning from us and others around them all the time, giving us many opportunities to counter negative messages. Children learn about boundaries, honesty, respect for self and others, and conflict resolution from family, friends, other caring adults, and during activities outside of school (corresponding assets are other adult relationships, safety, caring, interpersonal competence, honesty, integrity, self-esteem, peaceful conflict resolution, service to others, and many others).

As a therapist, I have had the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people. I have worked with individuals who do not have many assets, and who make decisions that have negative consequences. Research on the 41 Assets shows that the more assets a young person has, the more likely they will engage in positive behaviors. Hence, the fewer assets one has, the more likely they are to engage in negative behaviors. The individuals who are making negative choices to hurt others, hurt themselves, and be destructive, usually do not have many assets. If they had people in their lives supporting them, reaching out to them, modeling for them, would they have made different choices? I believe most of the time, they would.

So how do we make a difference? We can be involved in numerous ways. It can be as simple as saying hello to a child, sitting with a child at lunch, reaching out to someone who is sad, helping someone in need, donating to others, being an upstander, modeling good choices, etc. Even the smallest gestures can make a huge impact on someone’s life. This responsibility falls on all of us, but let’s remember that we are not alone. We are all part of one or more communities where we can find support. Lastly, if you haven’t taken the Project Cornerstone “Take It Personally” class, please do so. It is a wonderful class that educates and inspires adults to make a commitment to support children and teens, and it gives you an opportunity to connect with others at Village.

If you would like to learn more about Project Cornerstone and the 41 Assets, please visit Project Cornerstone’s website or past Village Voice articles on this topic:

Asset Building While Increasing Productivity

Reflections on Asset Building in our Kids

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