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Family Engagement

Building Strong Families and Strong Relationships

Healthy, strong family relationships are important for young people’s growth, learning, and well-being. Search Institute’s Keep Connected program provides experiences, resources, training and tools for parents and families, and for schools and organizations that serve families. This innovative family engagement program is designed to strengthen the family relationships that help young people become their best selves. 

The Power of Family Relationships

Our decades of research in positive youth development have taught us that family relationships are foundational to young people’s growth, learning, and well-being. Based on our work with youth and families, we created the developmental relationships framework to share our understanding of five elements that can help young people learn, grow, and thrive: express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities.

Search Institute’s Keep Connected program applies these principles to family relationships. It provides practical tools and experiences that families can use to discover their strengths and develop meaningful connections that help young people overcome difficulties, remove barriers, and thrive.

Resources for Families

What does it mean to express care in a family? How do we share power with young people? What strengths does your family already have? Keep Connected is a program designed to help families learn ways to strengthen family relationships and help young people grow up responsibly, including setting goals together, managing money, and preventing alcohol and tobacco use.

Keep Connected can help you

  • Measure your Family Relationships. The Family Relationship Quiz helps assess the strengths and areas for growth in your family.
  • Strengthen Your Family Relationships. Keep Connected has specific, age-appropriate suggestions for applying the developmental relationships framework to your family situation: Discover ideas for getting started like “Pay attention: Focus on your children when they’re talking about things that matter to them. Put away your cell phone.” (part of Express Care).
  • Set Goals Together. These ideas and activities can help families discover individual and shared goals for the future, affecting how they relate to one another and live in the present.
  • Discover Strategies for Preventing Alcohol and Tobacco Use. We provide conversation starters and activities for families to have open, honest conversations about substances.
  • Learn about Money Together. Financial stress can have a big impact on family relationships. Money Matters offers ideas for families to explore money habits and values.

How do parents perceive teacher-student relationships and why do they matter?

National survey results show parents overwhelmingly agree that the relationships teachers forge with students play an important role in their growth.

Learn more about the survey findings

Overcoming Barriers to Family Engagement

Educators, youth workers, social workers, faith leaders, and people working in the criminal justice system all know that family relationships are important to young people’s learning and development. Yet many organizations experience challenges when it comes to engaging with families.

With an eye toward strengthening these relationships, Search Institute researchers have identified a number of barriers to family involvement in programs and services. Understanding where your organization falls on this spectrum can help enrich relationships with families.

Practical Barriers

  • Time
  • Schedule
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Program costs

Attitudes and Expectations

  • Embarrassment, sense of failure and competition
  • Perceived stigma and fear of being judged or labeled
  • Parents feeling blamed for their children’s problems
  • Lack of privacy
  • Consequences of signing up (for example, revealing immigration status)

Institutional Barriers

  • Lack of trust in sponsoring organization
  • Organization is not welcoming to all families and groups of parent
  • Norm is to see parent education as mandated and punitive, not a resource for improvement
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Keep Connected

Keep Connected offers all kinds of families—and organizations that support them—ideas, activities, and experiences to help build strong family relationships. Our goal is to strengthen family relationships to help kids be and become their best selves.

Visit Our Keep Connected Site