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Enhancing Healthy Adolescent Development
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director: AllCEUs Counselor Education
Host: Counselor Toolbox Podcast, Case Management Toolbox Podcast

– Identify the developmental tasks of adolescents and what can be done to facilitate those
– Review unique points to remember when dealing with adolescents
– Identify protective factors
– Identify antecedents to high risk behaviors
– Brainstorm ways to address antecedents with the individual, in school, in communities and in families
Developmental Tasks of Adolescence
Points to Remember
– Adolescents are competent individuals with strengths and potential
– Adolescents are diverse in their developmental stages and their abilities to comprehend and respond to specific tasks and expectations.
– Adolescent behavior is meaningful to the adolescent.
– Adolescents desire a sense of belonging, wish to participate in decisions, and have a voice about issues that affect their lives.
– The context of an adolescent’s environment (i.e. family, school, peers, culture/ethnic group, neighborhood and community) should always be considered.
Points to Remember

– Build on adolescent’s strengths
– Much of the morbidity and mortality during adolescence is related to unhealthy or risky behaviors (e.g. smoking, drinking and
driving, unprotected sex, drug use, violence)
– Adolescents who engage in one risky behavior are more likely to engage in others
– Focus on the antecedents of high-risk behavior instead of the behavior itself

Antecedents to High Risk Behaviors
– Adverse Childhood Experiences
– Abuse, neglect or victimization—Experienced or witnessed IPV
– Divorce and separation
– Mental health or substance abuse issues in the household
– Undiagnosed learning disabilities
– School failure
– Academic failure was a greater risk factor for later adolescent drinking than adolescent drinking was for later academic failures

Addressing Antecedents
Adolescent Brain Development
– The brain matures from “back” to “front. ” Adolescent decision-making behaviors are more influenced by the amygdala than the prefrontal cortex:
– Decision-making is influenced by emotional/gut responses vs. higher order cognitions
– The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for planning, strategizing, judgment, impulse control and regulation of emotions
– Initial “growth spurt” at 11-12 years and continues through 25 years
– From 12-12 there is a pruning process of unused neuronal connections
– The temporal gap between the development of the socio-emotional and cognitive control systems of the brain underlies some aspects of adolescent reckless behavior and risk-taking
Comprehensive Health
– Healthy young people learn better and achieve more.
– Schools can directly influence students’ health and behaviors.
– Schools and communities can encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and promotes adolescent health and well-being.
– Health literacy can be incorporated into all aspects of school as well as recreation
– Schools, families and communities need to collaborate with youth to develop workable strategies

– Enhance cognitive “wise mind” processing during adolescence to retain those synapses
– Actively engage youth by providing opportunities for meaningful participation and sustained involvement in protective activities
– Develop resiliency skills
– Enhance protective factors
Protective Factors
– Family support
– Positive family communication
– Clear and consistent boundaries and expectations
– Other adult relationships
– Encouragement to develop relationships
– Connection to the family, school and community
– Youth are provided opportunities to be useful resources (meaningful participation)
– Youth feel emotionally and physically safe

Protective Factors
– Planning and decision making
– Resiliency:
– Problem solving
– Efficacy
– Social support
– Communication skills
– Mindfulness/self-awareness
– Self-esteem
– Distress tolerance
– Resistance and refusal skills
– Positive view of the future
– Cultural competence

Engaging Youth
Motivating Youth
– Something they want to do
– Time: Teach smarter (Have students read/watch the material at home and use class time to practice and ensure comprehension) (Jonathan Chein)
– Energy: Adequate sleep (see teach smarter) and access to essential nutrition
– Resources: Transportation, ability to earn money to afford activities
– Rewards: Financial, time off from school for community service activities, alternate study halls
– Examples: Church, Gym, Fair, Afterschool Activities
– Involve youth in the development of health promotional strategies
– What would encourage you to exercise-
– Types of activities: Skate parks, basketball courts, walking trails, indoor recreation, incentives
– Incentives: Days off from school,
– Obstacles: Transportation, cost, safety
– What would encourage you to avoid drugs and alcohol-
– Benefits to use:
– Drawbacks to use:
– Alternatives to use:

– Use media
– Actors, athletes persons of important to the youth to communicate messages
– Provide incentives for submitting pro-social memes to a moderated account (not pictures)
– Encourage students to write letters to producers of network shows indicating their preferences
– Encourage parents and community members to write letters to producers regarding prosocial messages they want communicated
– Work with local news media (TV, print and radio) to offer education on health literacy, parenting and mental health promotion

Youth Engagement Programs
– Youth engagement programs can facilitate positive youth development by:
– Providing opportunities for skill development and capacity building
– Providing opportunities for leadership
– Encouraging reflection on identity
– Developing social awareness

Transform Leadership Potential In Youth
– Permit youth to self-select for participation
– Respect and consider youths’ power and experiences
– Provide frequent and diverse leadership opportunities within the organization or community
– Ensure opportunities are available for all youth, including high-risk
– Develop an understanding of differences in cultural expression of leadership behaviors
– Allow youth to take on responsibilities and leadership roles without expectations of perfection.
– Offer opportunities encompass non-traditional leadership activities, such as volunteering or being a student assistant.
– Evaluate and explore youth’s perspectives and beliefs about leaders and leadership.

Keys to Youth Empowerment
– A welcoming, safe environment
– Meaningful participation and engagement
– Equitable power-sharing between youth and adults
– Engagement in critical reflection on interpersonal and sociopolitical processes
– Participation in sociopolitical processes to affect change
– Integration of individual and community level empowerment

Proactive Approaches
– Proactively develop emotional, cognitive, interpersonal and physical assets of youth
– Identification of things that make them happy
– Math: Budgeting for things they want; financial management for the future
– Research: Learning about something they are interested in
– English: Writing a paper on something they love (persuasive, entertaining, educational/informative)
– Science: Exploring the fun side of science, encourage youth to identify ways to make learning a topic enjoyable
– Home: Encourage them to do one thing daily for 30-60 minutes that makes them happy
– Community: Form a youth engagement committee at recreation centers/churches to identify what youth want to do and what would make them happy.

Proactive Approaches
– Proactively develop emotional, cognitive, interpersonal and physical assets of youth
– Ability to use psychological flexibility to deal with distress
– Social studies: Explore the news and help students use psychological flexibility and problem solving
– Before exams practice psychological flexibility
– Vulnerability prevention (the week before)
– Being mindful of the present moment and choosing thoughts and behaviors that will best help you achieve your goals (graduation, college, getting out of this class…)
– At home: Encourage parents to use a psychological flexibility worksheet

– Psychological flexibility worksheet

Proactive Approaches
– Proactively develop emotional, cognitive, interpersonal and physical assets of youth
– Effective problem solving skills
– Math: How can you figure out how to solve this problem…
– Science: Experiments– How do you make bath bombs- How can you get koolaid off a shirt- How can you get a balloon to stick to your head-
– English: Write a paper or have a panel discussion on how social media bullying can be prevented. The best way to deal with manipulative people. How to help a friend who is making poor life choices…
– Home: Negotiation and scaffolding
– Community: Involve youth in addressing social problems

Proactive Approaches
– Proactively develop emotional, cognitive, interpersonal and physical assets of youth
– High levels of health literacy
– Math: Measuring food, calculating calorie needs, understanding BMR and calorie consumption
– Research: Finding credible resources to answer questions
– English: Write papers on topics related to health literacy
– Science: Learn about the impact of nutrition, sleep and exercise on the body, review the Krebs Cycle

Proactive Activities
– Regular engagement with peers in prosocial activities
– English/Social Studies: Identify a social problem in the community, have students work in groups to develop and implement a solution
– Science: Encourage group work and make science club fun. Go to daycares and retirement homes to do science magic (and get time off from school)
– Home: Encourage youth to spend at least 20 minutes a day with the family. Plan monthly outings
– Community:
– Churches, recreation centers, libraries engage youth to identify what they want to do and develop afterschool and weekend programming (board game clubs, video games, art)
– Businesses offer affordable movies, drinks and a place to study

– Enhancing adolescent development means
– Preventing adverse childhood experiences
– Ensuring adequate growth and development
– Enhancing protective factors in the person, home, school and community
– Strategies include
– Involving community groups, rec centers, businesses in providing opportunities for youth recreation and leadership
– Working with schools to adjust curriculum to teach skills necessary for success including resiliency skills, health literacy and mental health promotion
– Ensuring families have access to the resources they need to create a safe and nurturing environment
– Involving youth in identifying problems, challenges, gaps in resources and incentives for participation