Youth Listening Sessions (YLS) offer an opportunity to meaningfully engage youth, signal that their opinions are valuable, and incorporate their voices into programming. OPA’s Listen Up! Youth Listening Session Toolkit guides users through all stages of conducting a youth listening session while promoting inclusive practices to support safe and supportive environments.
Additional Resources from OPA
Positive youth development (PYD) is not a specific curriculum but a model that can be used to enhance any youth-serving program. Youth-serving professionals should follow eight key practices to effectively incorporate PYD into their programs.
#1: Protect physical and psychological safety
A program can provide safe facilities and encourage healthy practices that increase safe peer group interaction and decrease unsafe or confrontational peer interactions.
Learn more about providing safe and secure environments that enable youth to thrive
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – LGBT Youth
- UMN Reach Lab – Physical and Psychological Safety Fact Sheet
- The National Center on Safe Supporting Learning Environments – Physical Safety
#2: Create the appropriate structure
This practice includes selecting activities and practices that match where youth are developmentally. Additionally, programs can work with youth to set clear and consistent rules and expectations, and age-appropriate monitoring.
Learn more about the structures that create an intentional and consistent youth-serving program
- National Center for Safe Supportive Learning Environments – Environment
- Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture – The 4-H Learning Experience
- UMN Reach Lab – Appropriate Structure Fact Sheet
#3: Build supportive relationships
Caring relationships offer social support, use positive communication, and provide supportive guidance. These relationships include the connections between youth and adults as well as among young people.
Learn more about the concrete steps that families, professionals, and communities can take to promote connectedness among youth
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Adolescent Connectedness
- Family and Youth Services Bureau – Aftercare: Staying in Touch with Youth After They Have Left the System Toolkit
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children
#4: Offer opportunities to belong
Apart from providing opportunities for the meaningful inclusion of all youth, programs can create opportunities for youth to explore their identities and support cultural and bicultural competence.
Learn more about offering opportunities to belong to specific groups of youth
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – LGBTQ Youth Resources
- Children’s Bureau – Embracing a “Youth Welfare” System: A Guide to Capacity Building
- Department of Agriculture – 4-H Access, Equity and Opportunity
#5: Encourage positive social norms
Positive social norms include behaviors and values that promote respect. Programs can encourage these norms by setting expectations and modeling behaviors.
Learn more about how to foster pro-social behaviors in adolescence
- Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention – Model Programs Guide: Youth Development
- Forum for Youth Investment – Preparing Youth to Thrive: Methodology and Findings from the Social Emotional Learning Challenge
- UMN Reach Lab – Positive Social Norms Fact Sheet
#6: Mentor, build efficacy, and offer opportunities to make a difference
A program can place youth in leadership roles and encourage youth choice to encourage youth to achieve meaningful change in their community.
Learn more about how to inspire and empower youth to make a difference in their lives and the world around them
- AmeriCorps – Serve: Fit Finder
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Resources for the Supervision of Peer Workers
- Youth.gov – Mentoring
- Youth Engaged 4 Change – Opportunities
#7: Provide opportunities for skill-building
Allowing opportunities for practice and connecting content to goals can help adolescents learn a range of skills that prepare them to make positive and informed decisions that affect their health, educational and career opportunities, and other aspects of their lives.
Learn more about specific skills that can benefit adolescents now and in the future
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Coping with Stress
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Financial Resources and Information for Students and Young Americans
- Department of Education – Get a Job, Skill, or Trade
- Federal Student Aid – Choosing a College or Career School
- Job Corps – Career Development Services for Students
#8: Integrate across family, school, and community efforts
PYD is an approach for everyone. Program can emphasize coordination and collaboration with family, school, and community partners to strengthen their efforts.