The Evidence Portal

Personal growth and development

Flexible activity

In this activity, young people are supported to build a sense of identity and their self-esteem. This aims to increase young people’s confidence, resilience, and ultimately, their independence. 

Young people should be supported to develop the skills they need to self-regulate and to deal with stress and other challenges they may face. Young people could also be encouraged to reflect on personal choices and behaviour, who they want to be, and changes they might need to make for that to happen.

How can it be implemented?

Young people can be supported in their personal development and growth a number of different ways. The approach taken will depend on the needs and preferences of the young person. These activities are typically embedded into existing weekly sessions with mentors. 

One-on-one individual sessions

Personal growth and development can be embedded into existing one-on-one sessions between the mentor and young person. Mentors can support the young person to develop skills to self-regulate. This may include:

  • Thinking positive strategies
  • Focusing on accomplishments
  • Dealing with stress

Group discussions and activities

In small groups facilitated by mentors, young people can learn about:

  • identity development: explore components of identity and identify personal values
  • stress self-care: identify personal stressors and responses and practice techniques to reduce stress.
  • self-esteem: reflect on personal strengths
  • positive peer influences: discuss friendship skills and how to manage conflict

In these groups, young people contribute to discussions and complete activities that support them to develop skills in relevant areas.

Reading groups

In small groups facilitated by mentors, young people can:

  • Read books and reflect on the lessons learnt
  • Engage in group discussions about morals that facilitate personal reflection (reflecting on the book they read)
  • Undertake journaling exercises that facilitate personal reflection

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal people and communities?

Where possible, local Elders should be involved in the program as mentors or in other activities. This can enhance the cultural connections of young people. It can also improve the level of respectful relationships with local community leaders (Ware, 2013).

Who is the target group?

Personal development and growth activities have been implemented with the following target groups:

  • young non-violent offenders
  • young people transitioning to high school
  • young people transitioning out of foster care

What programs conduct this activity?

  • In the Reading for Life program, young people meet with mentors in small reading groups. The group read relevant books and reflect on the moral lessons and choices in the book and how they might apply to their own lives. They also complete journaling exercises that encourage personal reflection. 
  • In Project Arrive, young people participate in small group activities that seek to encourage personal development. The activities undertaken teach young people practical skills needed to address issues they face (e.g. identity development, self-esteem, peer pressure).  
  • The TAKE CHARGE program enables youth to appreciate and foster their strengths and confidence by practicing key self-determination skills relating to achievement (e.g., decision-making, problem-solving, planning), building allies (e.g., schmoozing, negotiation, partnership planning), and self-regulation (e.g., thinking positive, managing frustration and stress). 

What else should I consider?

Positive mentor-mentee relationships develop over a long time period (generally at least 12-18 months). Meaningful contact needs to be maintained for at least 12-18 months, with effectiveness and influence increasing the longer the relationship is maintained. Some evidence suggests that short-term mentoring programs (6 months or less) may disadvantage at-risk youth as they can reinforce or compound the sense of loss and disappointment frequently linked with other youth-adult relationships (Ware, 2013). This sense of loss can be particularly acutely felt where the relationship has ended poorly or suddenly.

Mentors should continue to support the young person and build their relationship after the ‘at-risk’ period. Mentors should continue to support young people through a phase where positive changes are consolidated.

Further resources

Last updated:

25 Nov 2022

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

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