There is a theory named the 40 Developmental Assets.
The idea is, is that there are 40 major assets found in a healthy child or adults life. The more assets the child or adult has, the more likely they are to be better connected to their community and display positive development physically, emotionally and psychologically.
One of the major points of the 40 Developmental Assets, is the connection to positive and supportive peers or mentors.
As easy as this may seem for some, these are some of the hardest assets to establish for youth in and from the foster care system.
It was for me.
The first part of my life, was spent in my house most of the time. I was not enrolled in school consistently (I was homeschooled by my mother) and I did not join extra curricular activities. Not because they could not afford it, but because my parents did not believe in them.
Essentially, my social network for the first 14 years of my life, were my parents and my six siblings. All of my social habits and experiences were formed by what I was exposed to during those 14 years – much of it, was not healthy or positive.
At 14, I went to high school after fighting my parents to let me go.
I wanted to meet people. I wanted to go out into the world. I wanted to have friends. Friends who lasted a long time.
If I had ever made friends before high school, I was usually made to end the friendship for one reason or other by my parents.
I remember one friend I had when my parents had enrolled us in school (one of the many times). She was the first friend to tell me I was “really pretty”. She was in foster care. I liked her – and she liked me. She did not care that my clothes were uncool or that I was socially awkward. She was kind of like me.
Then my mom made me stop talking to her. She said my friend wore too much black and was goth (she was not really though). She handed me the phone one day and told me to call my friend and say we couldn’t be friends anymore. So I did. I could not lie – she was standing right in front of me – watching me call her.
I told my friend that we had nothing in common, and that I did not want to be friends anymore. As my mom watched. I hung up the phone. We never spoke again. And soon after, I was pulled out of school anyways.
Needless to say, when I walked into high school at 14, never having much peer social interaction, making friends was not easy.
I got bullied a lot, and people made fun of me. I was the homeschooled kid who dressed different, always tried too hard to fit in and who didn’t understand the jokes everyone understood – because most of the time, they were about me.
I did not understand how people did it – how people made friends. Everyone made it look so easy.
My journey of learning how to build friendships was a ten year journey. All throughout high school I struggled with my social skills. University was a bit easier. My second and third year of university were probably the easiest. By then, I had a small group of people I truly and honestly considered my friends.
Today, was one of those days where I paused in a moment, and realized how far I came in the area of friends.
One time in my life, the concept of friends was foreign to me – almost impossible to understand.
Today, I picked up the phone with good news and was surprised to see that I had called/messaged 12 friends.
Ive come a long way from none.
And I am proud of myself for developing my assets
how to make friends.
Photo credit: We Heart It App