Instilling the qualities of ‘development assets’ in youngsters is the goal behind the Strengthening Positive Assets & Resiliency in Communities (SPARC) coalition.
“Denise (Fredeen) and I had been talking for a couple of years really about our own work that we do with addiction and mental health, and how we are constantly working on prevention,” explained Rania Page, AHS health promotion facilitator and co-chair of the Red Deer SPARC coalition along with Denise Fredeen.
“Through that, we started learning more and more about developmental assets, which are research-based building blocks that children need to thrive,” she said. “Learning more about it, we started incorporating it and infusing it into our work,” she said.
“I had always wanted to have a coalition in Red Deer working specifically on asset building, so Denise and I decided to make it happen,” she said, adding that the Coalition officially was launched in June of 2017.
”So that’s what it stemmed from.”
Altogether, there are about 40 developmental assets that SPARC wished to educate the community about.
These run the gamut from having family support and a caring neighbourhood to engaging in service to others, safety, creative activities to developing characteristics like integrity, honesty, interpersonal competence and self-esteem.
“For example, one of them is family support. The higher the number a young person has, the more likely they are to thrive, succeed and make good choices. The lower the number they have, the more likely they are to behave in risky behaviour.
To support families, SPARC offers an array events that are suitable for families with children ages 6-12.
Two events have been held in Red Deer so far this year, with a total turnout of more than 600.
“The two major events were called Simple Connections, Stronger Families. And the purpose of those events was to have families come out to either the Dawe or the Collicutt Centre and (take part in) various activities.” Each of these activities was designed to bolster developmental assets in kids.
“Families could come together, try the activities and learn how they could do that very same thing at home to support building those assets in their children,” she said. Activities included game stations, art stations, giant Jenga and puzzles to name a few.
“As they build the puzzle together, there were various messages on building resiliency and how engaging more in our community we are growing healthy kids and healthy families. Simply by playing games together, we are teaching our kids to take turns, the importance of having family time and quality time,” she said.
Other stations focused on bolstering overall wellness, said Fredeen. “We had ‘move your mood station’ where we were teaching families how when they move together, it’s a really positive social piece as a family and also getting active can improve mood and health,” she said.
“We also had a food/nutrition station. The message there was to get your kids involved in making healthy snacks and foods, and about eating together, and how important it is to have less distractions and a conversation around the table as a family,” she explained.
Feedback included comments on how it was a great way for families to connect. “Everyone there that was either working at the event or experiencing it as a guest was really positive,” said Page.
“I think a lot of what I heard was that families really enjoyed it, and they wanted more.”
The SPARC coalition consists of community groups including Alberta Health Services, the City of Red Deer, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and the Red Deer Public School District.
For more information, and for more tips on how to build developmental assets in children, find SPARCRD on Facebook.