Physical Activity and Spiritual Development for Youth
Children and adolescents need to participate in regular physical activity. This should include activities that make their heart beat faster, as well as bone-strengthening and muscle-building exercises.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes the importance of youth, as it is a key group to realize the goals. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) facilitates the involvement of young people in the UN system.
Education systems need to offer students access to enrichment activities. This includes cultural and artistic programs, and national service initiatives that empower youth to change their own communities for the better. This model is also referred to as liberal or person-centered education.
Many young people are not in a position to benefit from these educational opportunities. They may live in chaotic neighborhoods, lacking community resources and social controls to help channel their behavior away from criminal activities. They may also lack a nurturing family environment, prosocial friendships and a high-quality education.
UNESCO estimates that 244 million children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 18 worldwide are currently missing out on school. This figure masks dire inequalities and highly variable effects, with the greatest impact affecting low-income countries. It is critical to focus on prevention strategies that target the entire spectrum of risk factors and protective factors. A constellation of these strategies can dramatically reduce the chances that youth will become delinquent or violent.
For many youth, a job is a way to make money, feel a sense of accomplishment and be socially connected. It can also provide access to benefits, such as food stamps or healthcare coverage. It can also help a young person find a place to live.
But a job is not always easy to find. The youth in this group often face barriers to finding jobs, including a lack of financial knowledge and skills. This is a major problem that must be addressed by business, government and philanthropy.
Across states, aging-out youth earn less than the comparison groups both prior to and after exiting foster care. There are some differences by race, but overall, aging-out youth earn less than both reunified youth and youth exiting from AFDC/TANF cases in California and South Carolina. This may be due to a variety of reasons, including lack of opportunities to work and poor health outcomes. It is also possible that some aging-out youth are engaging in survival behaviors to meet their needs, such as substance use or incarceration.
In adolescence, people develop patterns of behaviour that might protect or put their health at risk. These behaviours are often influenced by family and friends, but they also establish patterns of service use that might be shaped by their interactions with the system.
Youth have many ways of accessing health services, including through families and their own family physicians. However, they might not consult their family physician about matters related to sexual health and personal and emotional problems owing to concerns about confidentiality and discomfort with these subjects.
Globally, there is growing support for achieving universal health coverage (UHC), which is defined as all people having access to affordable, quality healthcare when they need it. Youth’s voices should be included in this conversation, as well as their ideas, perspectives, skills and strengths. They should be engaged in a way that is respectful, nonjudgmental and inclusive of their experiences of living with chronic conditions. They should have opportunities to participate in designing and evaluating their own health services.
Spiritual development is a critical element of youth’s life. It interacts with and yet is distinct from moral and religious development and is a core construct of identity formation during the adolescent period. Whether secular or religious, spiritual development can have tremendous benefits for young people including positive impacts on their physical health and academic performance.
This exploratory study used a multidimensional measure of spirituality from face-to-face interviews with 188 youth from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds currently in foster care. Youth were asked about their beliefs about God, prayer and other spiritual coping mechanisms they use. They also were asked about other positive activities they participate in. Future research should expand the sample size to include children of color, given their disproportionate representation in foster care. It should also focus on a more culturally-inclusive definition of spirituality. This may help identify important aspects of spirituality not captured in this study.