4-H Has Heart

— Written By Ali Huber
en Español / em Português

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Empathy. Concern for Others. Sharing. Nurturing Relationships. These are all qualities that we hope our youth learn throughout their life. In 4-H we are focused on helping youth develop those and many other skills. When youth participate in 4-H programs they have opportunities to develop all of these skills. Below we highlight a couple of ways you can help to develop these heart skills at home and have fun in the process.

Family Rituals4-H Life Skills Wheel

Family is where youth learn a great deal about developing relationships and communication. Developing family rituals allows for youth to have structure and predictability which can lead to increased communication, resiliency, and coping skills (Silliman, 2001). These do not have to be lavish activities but can include a regular morning routine, sitting down together for dinner, or game nights. Try to find and create regular time in your family’s schedule to communicate and have fun together. Read more about developing healthy family rituals.

youth donating to clothing driveCommunity Service Projects

Volunteering in the community is a great way for youth to develop empathy, concern for others and caring. Youth can volunteer for a community service project or the whole family can join in. Helping the community can take many forms but it always allows for youth to think about others and their needs and see how their work can help others and their community. From food drives to litter pick-up to time spent at a nursing home, volunteering is a great way for youth to think beyond themselves and develop greater empathy. Additionally, youth who participate in volunteering report less destructive behavior, greater work ethic and better school results (Latham, 2003).

Working on a Project with Siblings and Family Members

Working towards a common goal through a long-term project is a great way for youth to develop effective communication skills. Encourage youth to work with their siblings on a larger project such as designing and building a fort for the backyard, making an art book or cooking together. To complete these projects youth will need to effectively communicate throughout the process. Join in as well and help to model conflict resolution and patience whenever necessary. Though it can be difficult in the beginning, working as a part of a team is a valuable skill that they will use for the rest of their lives.

Journalingclose-up of hand journaling

A simple way to help to encourage youth to develop their communication skills is through journaling. Journaling can allow youth to work through difficult feelings in the safe environment of their private journal. It helps youth to develop coping skills as they process events in their lives and reflect on what is happening around them. Journaling can take many forms with writing, doodling, poetry, cartoons and more. Encourage youth to reflect on events and their lives through their journal. You can also help to supply prompts to get youth thinking such as encouraging them to write down how they would describe themselves (Pike, 2001). For more information on journaling with youth check out this resource.

For more information on 4-H programs contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Camden County Center at 252-331-7630 or email Ali_Huber@ncsu.edu.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, political beliefs, family and marital status, sex, age, veteran status, sexual identity, genetic information or disability. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.


Latham, M., University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (2003). Young Volunteers: The Benefits of Community Service

Pike, L. B. University of Missouri Cooperative Extension (2001, November). Journaling With Teens

Silliman, B., University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Services. (2001, April). Family Rituals that Build Strength