As promised last month we want to share more about a framework we learned from one of our partners, the Search Institute, called Developmental Relationships. We hope to shed understanding and ways in which you can apply each of the pillars:

  • Expressing Care
  • Challenging Growth
  • Providing Support
  • Sharing Power
  • Expanding Possibilities


Let’s look at expressing care, the first pillar and foundation of relationships. When we express care to our children, we show them that we like them and want the best for them. We show our kids that we care by how we listen, show warmth, invest time and energy, and are someone they can count on. Another cool part? You can apply this to any relationship in your life! Try these ideas and activities to expand how you express care with people in your life.

Tips for expressing care:

  1. Make an effort to understand your (insert important person in your life here!) point of view when they share ideas or opinions.
  2. When your partner says they have a problem, try not to immediately jump to offering a solution. Focus on understanding and empathizing first, and then see if they have any ideas about a solution before you offer your ideas.
  3. Participate in your child’s imaginary world, whether that means becoming a character or imagining you are in another place. Convey enthusiasm for the world your child has created in their head.
  4. Show interest in each other’s sparks, which are deep interests or abilities that tap into your deepest passions. Support each other in exploring and developing these interests or passions.
  5. Focus attention on your friend when they are talking about things that are important to them. Put away the smartphone.

Relationship builder activity: Surface strengths

Find a time when you are with important people in your life (family, friends, coworkers) and ask everyone to write down the qualities they like about a member of the group on slips of paper. Have them only write down the qualities—such as being hard working, or considerate, or funny—without writing down the name of the person in the group they are thinking about. After everyone has finished writing, put all of the slips in a bowl and then pass the bowl among each other and ask each person to pick and read one (with reading assistance, if necessary). After each good quality is read, ask people to guess who the good quality describes. End the activity by stressing how many good qualities exist in your group!

Read on to learn how we at Camp Fire Columbia are putting the developmental relationships framework into practice!

Or dig deeper into expressing care by visiting the Search Institute’s “9 Ways to Express Care” blog post.

Next month we will share tips and ideas on how to challenge growth!