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40 Developmental Assets for School Age Children

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Are you helping your child become a successful adult? According to the Search Institute, there are 40 key developmental assets which you can provide to your school-aged child that will help her transition through childhood and adulthood.

As you begin providing these assets to your child, keep in mind the following six guidelines provided by the Search Institute. First, remember that every positive adult and child who you know can be an encouraging influence on your child. Second, remember that your child needs as many of these 40 assets as possible to help her positively develop. Third, relationships are key to asset building, so provide your child with plenty of social interaction. Fourth, remember that asset building is a process that you will continue into adulthood. Fifth, provide consistent messages through the experiences and values that you teach your children — make sure other adults, children and media are reinforcing your set of beliefs and values. Sixth, continually reinforce your messages throughout your child’s life.

The Search Institute provides the following 40 assets which are critical to your child’s development. They are divided into two key areas: external and internal assets, with four subcategories within each area.

External Assets

External assets are those positive experiences that occur through sources outside of your child’s own internal world, such as family, school, daycare, and other adults. The Search Institute has focused on four key external assets which are vital to your child’s development: support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time.


Support your child by giving her plenty of love, care and attention. Show her that you are interested in her passions and hobbies. Give her support by answering questions she has and helping her work through issues. When you disagree with her on a matter or when she misbehaves, make sure she still knows you love her unconditionally.

(1) Give your child family support by providing lots of love from all members.

(2) Communicate with your child in positive ways, and make sure she feels comfortable approaching you for advice.

(3) Provide other adult relationships for your child besides you and your husband.

(4) Provide opportunities for your child to experience caring neighbors.

(5) Encourage positive relationships with her teachers and schoolmates, and make sure she is in a caring, encouraging school environment.

(6) Become actively involved in your child’s school life and help her succeed in school.


Empower your child to use her talents and abilities to help other people. Find service projects for her in the neighborhood and community. Encourage her to write letters to the editor of your local newspaper on issues that affect her in the community. Gradually increase the amount of control she has in her daily schedule.

(7) Make sure your child feels valued and appreciated by the adults in her life.

(8) Include your child in family meetings and decisions.

(9) When possible, involve your child in your community service projects.

(10) Provide your child with safe environments at home, in the neighborhood, and at other care locations.

Boundaries and Expectations

Set firm, yet reasonable, boundaries and high, yet realistic, expectations for your child. Make sure other caregivers are providing consistent boundaries. Remain unyielding on boundary issues that affect her safety (i.e. wearing a bicycle helmet). Constantly challenge your child to do her best at school, and be available to help her with homework.

(11) Provide clear and consistent rules and consequences. Make sure you know where your child is at all times.

(12) Make sure that her school provides clear rules and consequences.

(13) Encourage your neighbors to take responsibility in monitoring your child’s behavior in the neighborhood.

(14) Provide several positive adult role models for your child.

(15) Encourage friendships with children who model positive, responsible behavior.

(16) Begin setting high, yet realistic, expectations for her performance at school and in other activities.

Constructive Use of Time

Spend time finding activities for your child which will make constructive use of her time. Don’t just sit her in front of the television to keep her quiet, but keep her engaged in a variety of activities and play time. Give her opportunities for structured, adult-supervised activities outside of the home. Teach her basic time management skills so she begins to learn how to create a healthy balance between work and play.

(17) Provide opportunities for your child to participate in music, art, drama or creative writing at least twice a week.

(18) Provide structured school or community activities for your child at least twice a week.

(19) Regularly attend religious services together as a family at least once a week.

(20) Balance your child’s time at home between high-quality interaction with you and free time alone or with siblings. Limit the amount of time spent watching television and playing video games.

Internal Assets

Internal assets are those experiences which help to develop a sense of confidence and purpose within your child. Internal assets focus on commitments, values, skills and a positive outlook on life. As your child grows, these assets will help her develop wisdom needed for decision making, conflict resolution and planning for the future. Search Institute provides four key areas of internal assets: commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity.

Commitment to Learning

Spark your child’s commitment to learning. Give her a special place to study and do homework, and create standard guidelines for accomplishing homework each day. As your child develops her reading skills, let her read to you each day, and be sure to affirm her progress. Provide opportunities for your child to learn more about subjects that interest her.

(21) Make sure your child is motivated to do well in school and her other activities.

(22) Talk with your child’s teachers to ensure that she is actively engaged in learning. Provide learning opportunities outside of school (such as trips to the zoo).

(23) Make sure your child is responsible with her homework and is able to complete assignments on time.

(24) Encourage your child to bond with teachers and adults in her school.

(25) Make reading fun for your child by incorporating her reading time into fun family events (for more information, read the iMom article, “Getting Your Kids Interested in Reading”), and encourage her to read for fun most days of the week.

Positive Values

Guide your child in her moral and spiritual development, and give her a foundation of positive values to build her life on. Consistently teach and model character traits such as honesty, responsibility, integrity and compassion. Incorporate these values in her daily life. For example, make sure she writes thank-you notes for gifts she receives, practices good table manners, and shows respect to the adults she encounters each day. Involve her in family service projects. Always be on the lookout in the world around you for examples of character and values which you can discuss together.

(26) Teach your child that it is important to help other people.

(27) Teach your child that it is important to speak up for other people.

(28) Teach your child that it is important to stand up for her beliefs.

(29) Teach your child the importance of telling the truth.

(30) Teach your child the importance of accepting personal responsibility for her actions.

(31) Teach your child the importance of good health habits and a healthy age-appropriate understanding of sexuality.

Social Competencies

Actively teach and model social competencies and life skills which will help her relate to other people. These skills will help your child effectively handle challenges and stress; develop and maintain healthy relationships; and become an effective contributor in her school, as well as her future workplace, community and society. To help your child develop these skills, encourage her to communicate with words rather than actions. Encourage her to spend time with those who are different from her.

(32) As your child begins to master her age-appropriate level of decision making and planning skills, assist her when she asks for help, but allow her to develop her skills.

(33) At this age, your child will begin developing interpersonal competence. Make sure she shows concern for other people’s feelings, enjoys making friends, and attempts to manage her anger and frustration.

(34) Continue to develop your child’s cultural competence and make sure she is comfortable around people of different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

(35) Make sure that your child is able to say no to peer pressure and can stay away from people who are likely to lead her into trouble.

(36) Continue training your child in peacemaking skills and make sure that she is attempting peaceful conflict resolution (for more information, read the iMom article “Teaching Your Children Peacemaking Skills”).

Positive Identity

Celebrate your child’s unique personality and give her plenty of affirmation. Help her develop a positive identity and a sense of purpose and meaning in her life. Give her the skills necessary to make tough choices and to work through difficult times. Help her think through her options when facing difficult choices and help her choose the wisest plan. Encourage her to find inspirational, positive role models. Openly talk with your child about what gives your life meaning and a sense of purpose.

(37) Make sure your child feels she has some influence over the events in her life. Teach her basic coping skills and stress management techniques.

(38) Make sure your child likes herself and watch out for signs of low self-esteem.

(39) At this stage, your child may begin pondering the “meaning of life” questions and her purpose. Work with her through these questions and provide plenty of role modeling for leading a purposeful life.

(40) Make sure your child is optimistic about her personal future.


In 1989 the Search Institute began researching those experiences, attitudes, and behaviors which positively shape the lives of young people. They identified 40 key assets which were most common among successful adolescents. They found that the more assets these youth possessed, the more positive and healthy their development. However, the fewer the assets, the more likely they would engage in risky behaviors such as drug use, violence, and unsafe sex. Sadly, the Search Institute has found that the average youth has only experienced 19 out of the 40 assets. Over the years, the organization has modified its original study on adolescents to include childhood development issues. For lists of the top 40 assets for other developmental stages, click on the following links:

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.  

Source: Search Institute — http://www.search-institute.org


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