Youth development professional and teen boy in front of blackboard with math

When youth feel empowered, they become active contributors and collaborators at home, at school, at the Club and beyond.

Why Is Youth Empowerment Important?

At the core of youth empowerment is the belief that young people are capable of incredible things. When young people have exposure to inspiring ideas and opportunities and the tools to build their confidence – they can take on anything and everything.

An empowered young person recognizes their capabilities, self-determination and worth. They feel comfortable trying new things. They have the confidence to take risks and are aware that failure is a step toward progress, not a sign to give up. They don’t use the opinions of others as their guideposts in life. They stand up for their values. And they know they have built a foundation of self-empowerment to rely on in times of struggle or when they are feeling lost and need to recalibrate.

Youth empowerment is incredibly important – it gives kids and teens the courage to believe in themselves, to not be swayed by the opinions of others, and to go after their dreams.

While some kids and teens are born with an innate sense of “what if” and the courage to act on it, most look to the world around them to gain the ideas, excitement and skills to explore their potential and test the waters of their capabilities. Encouragement and opportunities go a long way in helping a kid or teen come out of their shell and take on new experiences, and a caring mentor – parent, caregiver, teacher or youth development provider – can be a powerful ally in youth empowerment.

Here are a few ways you can help empower a young person in your life:

Help kids and teens explore their interests and potential. Getting curious is the first step to feeling empowered. Read books and watch movies together about a variety of pursuits and careers and see where your kid’s interests are. Ask questions like “Can you see yourself doing something like this?” When they take on a hobby, explore different ways they can build on this interest and deepen confidence in their abilities.

Give them the space and trust to practice autonomy. Kids and teens are natural contributors, but often don’t feel adults expect them to do things well or participate at all. Offer safe, supportive opportunities for your kid to be autonomous and make clear your expectations for their contributions – whether that’s a toddler learning to take their plate to the dishwasher or empowering a teenager to decorate their own space.

Speak with honesty. Knowledge is power, and when we are open, direct and honest with young people, this not only helps expand their understanding of the world around them, but it builds their own self-awareness. Equipped with information to be successful, they are more likely to see the big picture and make smarter decisions, while not sweating the small stuff.

Trust their ability as leaders. From working on school projects to managing a household chore to leading community service events, in youth-led efforts, let young people own the trajectory of the assignment, from planning to execution. You can always be a safety net for when they make mistakes or need to be redirected but give them the space to try it their way first. Afterwards, ask for their feedback on what went right and what could be improved.

When youth are empowered, they feel confident and capable. They become active contributors and collaborators, excited to explore their impact on the world around them.

Boys & Girls Clubs’ caring mentors and life-enhancing programs empower millions of young people each year. Learn how to get involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

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Boys & Girls Clubs of America provides mentorship, programs and meaningful life experiences that boost youth self-esteem, build confidence and contribute to overall positive and healthy wellbeing. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest resources and stories.

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