How to Choose Your 'Trusted Adult'
Updated: Aug 8
When working with youth, especially around tough topics like sex and relationships, you hear a common phrase come up often. “If you have questions, be sure to talk to a parent or trusted adult.” That term “trusted adult” is thrown around a lot. Usually it means an aunt/uncle, grandparent, or family friend. Or does it? Who are these “trusted adults” and what are you trusting them to do? There are so many assumptions that go along with appointing someone as a trusted adult, simply because they are related to you or in close proximity.
When thinking about who your child might consider their trusted adult, there a few things to keep in mind:
Does this person’s core value system match up with what I would like to promote within my family? Unfortunately, there is no script to follow regarding how to answer questions from our children. So instead, we provide answers that come from our core value system. You want to know that any answers being provided to your child are a direct reflection of similar values and beliefs about the way the world works and how we as people should move through it.
Do I expect this person to report back to me after my child has sought them out? When your child confides in their trusted adult, what are the expectations? Is this person going to encourage your child to come to you at some point (possibly after they have been able to gather the courage or collect their thoughts)? Is the information discussed confidential with no exceptions? Do you trust that if there is something happening that you need to be made aware of, this person will tell you (see values above)? It is important that expectations are discussed with everyone in advance to encourage the creation of a safe space.
Do I trust them with the care and safety of my child? This is a very basic principal. If you do not trust them enough to leave you child in their care, then they are probably not the best option as your child’s trusted adult.
In a tough situation, do I think that they will advise my child in a way that I am okay with? It is likely that in a tough situation, the trusted adult may not do exactly what you would have done. Mostly, because we all know that hindsight is 20/20. However, choose someone who has a track record of responding in a similar fashion. Pay attention to how you react to situations in comparison to they way someone else does. Maybe when their son or daughter was caught trying to sneak someone into the house, you admired how well they handled it. This is not to say that the way you handled it was wrong and their way was right. This may just be an instance where you would like your child to benefit from a personality strength you see in someone else.
Is this someone my child has seen me interacting with? It is important for your child to see that you have a relationship with their trusted adult. The trusted adult relationship is not meant to be a secret bond with a stranger. This is someone that they have seen you interact with and is sends a message that you like and approve of this person. Moreover, it also lets you child know that your communication with them is open. For example, if your child is struggling to disclose something, the trusted adult can offer to check in with you and do some prep work.
Does my child know that I am comfortable with this being one of their trusted adults? This seems like an obvious one, but you would be surprised. You might have three or four names in your head of adults that would make amazing trusted adults. Unfortunately, your children don’t live in your head. They need to know who these people are and have their contact information.
For some parents, the idea of someone else being there for their children is a hard concept that they struggle with. The purpose of the trusted adult is not to usurp your role as the parent. On the contrary, the trusted adult is intended to extend your parental reach and provide you with additional support from a myriad of sources.
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