When times get tough, kids need adults they can trust
Who did you turn to for advice, comfort, and understanding when you were young? Was there an
adult you trusted and enjoyed talking with? If you had an adult outside your family who was
there for you during tough times and good times, you probably understand how important a
relationship like that is for a young person. Now you can be that adult friend. Whether you’re a
neighbor, teacher, tutor, coach, aunt, older cousin, or coffee shop worker—you can be a good
friend to a young person. Young people want adults besides their parents to count on. Problem
is, we live in a society that doesn’t always encourage adults and youth to spend time together.
But the effort is worthwhile. Other Adult Relationships is Asset 3 of Search Institute’s 40
Developmental Assets, the qualities, experiences, and relationships that help young people grow
up healthy, caring, and responsible.
Here are the facts
Research shows that young people who have three or more caring adults (besides parents or
guardians) who support them feel happier and more hopeful, do better in school, and are less
likely to rely on drinking, smoking, or drugs to feel good or fit in. About 43 percent of young
people, ages 11–18, have three or more nonparent adults in their lives, according to Search
Institute surveys. Caring adults are important to the development of young people, especially if
those adults are open to discussing tough questions and know how to listen without judging.
Tips for building this asset
Build relationships. Connect with young people outside your own family and make an effort to
interact regularly. They need caring adults to bounce ideas off, ask questions of, laugh with, and
help sort through sticky situations. If you’re a parent, encourage other caring adults to develop a
friendship with your children.
Also try this:
In your home and family: Think about your child’s strengths, talents, and interests.
Do you know any adults who share those same qualities? Invite one of them to get to
know your child better by coming to a school activity or getting together for dessert or a
In your neighborhood and community: Consider becoming a mentor to one or more
young people in your community.
In your school or youth program: Tell young people about an adult who supported
you when you were young. Ask them to think about someone they counted on during a
tough time. Have the young people pair up and brainstorm ways they could initiate more
friendships with other caring adults and what they’d want to get from these relationships.