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Tip of the Week: Know the Strengths of Youth

October 26, 2023

“You can’t read the label while sitting in the jar.”

Southern Folk Wisdom

I co-directed a girls’ leadership program in the early 2010s. In that program, we used a tool to help girls see their abilities differently. Many girls didn’t like who they were and how they showed up in the world. They received constant messages that they were not good enough or could do better. These are cultural norms that still prevail today.

The mental health of girls is concerning. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looking at mental health and suicidal behaviors from 2011 to 2021 indicates that 13% of high school girls had attempted suicide (30% had seriously considered it). That jumped to more than 20% for LGBTQ+ teens (45% had seriously considered it [Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary and Trends Report: 2011–2021]).

It’s hard to see your strengths. Your culture, gender, identity, and experiences influence your strengths. Since your strengths are who you are, trying to see them is like sitting in a glass jar and trying to read the label. 

The Clifton StrengthFinder Assessment for Students is one tool that we used in the girl’s leadership curriculum. It’s a tool that gives words to help discover the strength they have within and how they can use those strengths to grow.

Our youth need to see the good in who they are in the world. That their brilliance and gifts are necessary for whatever they choose to do in adulthood. 

Try this:

  • Point out 2-3 actions to a youth that they do well. Examples could be: You really like to research topics. You are great at getting items checked off your list. I saw how you helped your friend solve that problem. 
  • Encourage youth to ask 3-5 people who are friends or trusted adults, “What are my strengths or talents?” and write down what people tell them.

Take it a step further:

  • Create a collage or poster with pictures or phrases that remind youth about their strengths.