ACT for Youth


Social and Emotional Learning - Self-AwarenessSocial and emotional learning nurtures self-awareness, the ability to identify our own feelings, as well as how our feelings and thoughts influence what we do. Below you'll find resources to help promote self-awareness with youth in each of the following areas:
  • Identifying and building on strengths
  • Exploring personality and learning styles
  • Understanding stress and stressors

Identify and Build on Strengths

Often young people do not know their strengths, or they are not yet able to articulate their interests and skills. Helping youth identify and use their strengths is critical: It's a way to motivate them to develop the skills they need to succeed.

Search Institute: Sparks and Thriving

This web page describes Peter Benson's concept of sparks. It includes a video of young people talking about their sparks as well as links to resources and research.

WebWeb Page

Peter Benson: Sparks: How Youth Thrive

This inspirational TED Talk features Peter Benson, former president of Minneapolis-based Search Institute, describing the power of sparks and the need for sparks champions.

VideoTED Talk (22 minutes)

Step It Up 2 Thrive: Sparks

The Thrive Foundation for Youth offers resources based on Peter Benson's work, including background material, activities, lesson plans, and tips on how to help young people identify and build on their sparks.


What is Your Best Possible Self?

This Psychology Today article describes a positive psychology exercise that is supported by research.


Explore Personality and Learning Styles

Youth work professionals can help young people understand themselves better by providing feedback on how they appear to learn best, or by inviting youth to assess their own learning styles and personality types. By understanding learning styles, professionals can tailor teaching strategies to accommodate differences in these styles.

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences

This handout briefly outlines the characteristics of different learning styles.


Literacyworks: Multiple Intelligences

This website contains resources, practice strategies, and an online assessment for adults that is also appropriate for adolescents.

WebAssessment Tool and Resources

Interaction Talks: Personality Test for Teenagers

Interaction Talks is an online community resource site for teens, parents, caregivers, and teachers for all things related to teen health and well-being. It contains an online personality test for youth based on the Myers-Briggs test.

WebAssessment Tool

VIA Survey

The VIA Institute on Character provides a character strength assessment for youth and adults.

WebAssessment Tool

Thinking Styles and Pitfalls

This handout summarizes pessimistic and optimistic thinking styles, as well as common thinking pitfalls.


Wellcast's Automatic Thoughts

This narrated animation demonstrates common automatic, negative thoughts and thinking traps. Wellcast also offers a worksheet to help youth deal with automatic thoughts.

VideoVideo (5 minutes)


Thinking Traps

This resource from the Anxiety Disorder Association of British Columbia helps youth understand different types of thinking traps.


Usable Knowledge: The Biology of Positive Habits

This article and brief video from the Harvard Graduate School of Education discuss how the human brain is wired to focus on the negative -- and how we can "reprogram" it.

WebWeb Page

Understand Stress and Stressors

Invite self-reflection on stress and behavior. When youth feel stressed, you may have an opportunity to ask:
  • How does your body feel when you're stressed? Are your muscles or stomach tight or sore? Are your hands clenched? How is your breathing?
  • What are you feeling? Angry or sad?
  • What are you thinking of?
  • When you feel like this, what can you do to calm yourself down?

ACT Youth Network: Got Stress?

This section of ACT for Youth's website for young people helps youth explore the purpose of stress, stress signals, coping strategies, and ways to reduce stress.

WebYouth Web Pages

KidsHealth: The Story on Stress (Kids' Pages)

Written for elementary school age youth, these interactive web pages provide information and guidance on how to identify stressors and cope with them. The website is supported by the Nemours Foundation.

WebChildren's Web Pages

KidsHealth: Stress and Coping Center (Teen Pages)

Written for adolescents, these interactive web pages provide information and guidance on how to identify stressors and cope with them.

WebYouth Web Pages

AnxietyBC Youth

The Anxiety Disorder Association of British Columbia maintains this interactive website with dedicated pages for youth. Using multimedia and different engagement strategies, these web pages include resources on fears, stressors, coping skills, and personal stories.

WebYouth Website