Research shows that the support of positive adult role models can make a huge difference for a young person. Here’s what we know about the role of parents on their teen’s decision making:
- Teens age 12-19, report that parents influence their decisions abut sex more than anyone else, including friends.
- 87% of teens say that it would be easier for them to wait to have sex and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations with their parents
- About 75% of teens and adults say that talking about sex, love, and relationships in the media can be a good way to start conversations about these topics.
(Data from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2012)
Other trusted adults – aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, coaches, health care providers, church and youth group leaders, and friends’ parents – can also have a big impact on the lives of youth.
10 Things You Can Do To Support The Young People In Your Life:
- Educate yourself. The first step you can take is to educate yourself. Become informed about the challenges young people in your community are facing. Learn where to find the most accurate and current information. Know what online and community resources are available to young people. Be prepared to share this information when young people ask for answers or help. For helpful information click here.
- Become an “askable” adult. Regardless of how much you know, youth will not come to you unless they trust that you will take them seriously and give them honest answers to their questions. Anyone can take on the role of an “askable” adult as long as they are willing to be honest, respectful, understanding, supportive, and nonjudgmental.
- Be willing to have brave conversations. It is not always easy to have open conversations with young people about serious topics, such as dating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, and sex. However, they need us to step up and have these “brave” conversations with them. Although it can take a lot of courage and vulnerability on our part, it is worth the risk. It can make a world of difference in their life and strengthen our relationships with them.
- Take advantage of teachable moments. Use simple, everyday examples as ways to start conversations about the big, “brave” topics. For example, as you listen to popular music or watch TV or movies with young people, ask them what messages they think the media is sending about relationships or sex. How does this affect them? Are the messages in line with their own values and goals? What do healthy relationships really look like?
- Listen and be willing to learn. Letting youth have a voice can be very empowering and help them to build confidence. Allow them be the expert on their own life. Empower them with language. For example, use “young person” or “youth” instead of “kid” or “children.” Instead of just talking at them or lecturing, try to understand them and their point of view. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. Work together to learn and find the answers to questions. Refer them to other helpful people or resources in their community.
- Model healthy behaviors. Actions speak louder than words. Young people can usually tell when we don’t really practice what we preach. How can we expect them to make good choices if we don’t show them how? Show them what healthy relationships look like. Teach them how to communicate well, solve problems, manage emotions, and have a healthy body image.
- Provide growing opportunities. Give youth experiences to make decisions and mistakes, explore their personal values, participate in their community, help others, take on leadership responsibilities, learn life skills, and be in charge of their own development.
- Set boundaries. Although it’s important for young people to have space to learn and grow, they still want and need ground rules. Set and communicate clear, consistent boundaries and high expectations.
- Create safe spaces. Work to make your home, classroom, locker room, clinic, or office a place where ALL young people feel safe, included, and accepted. Make it clear that you will not tolerate bullying or name calling of any kind. Use inclusive language. For example, use gender-neutral terms like “partner” in place of “husband/wife” or “boyfriend/girlfriend.” This type of language can send a strong message to LGBTQ youth that you are an ally and they are safe with you.
- Focus on the positive. Believe in young people. Recognize their strengths. Teach them that they have strengths and help them to identify what these are for them personally. Give them opportunities to use and build on these strengths.
In all of your interactions with youth, remember….
“Youth are resources to cultivate, not problems to fix.” – Karen Pittman
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt