Caring adults make for stronger teens

Strengthening adult connections in teens’ lives can help promote healthy relationships.

Parent and teenager baking together in kitchen.
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A network of responsible and caring adults, in addition to parents, provides important resources that contribute to healthy adolescent development. Adults such as neighbors, youth workers, advisors, leaders of youth organizations, coaches, business people, teachers and religious leaders can serve as positive role models for teens.

Teens need a diverse and helpful team of caring adults who get involved in their lives. Caring adults, other than parents, play a vital role in providing teens with different perspectives and guiding their participation in constructive activities. They also help teens develop a consistent sense of boundaries and responsibility.

By helping integrate teens into the larger community, adults promote positive character traits related to helping others and caring about social issues. Unfortunately, our society is age-segregated and offers few outlets for teens to practice adult behaviors and roles. Many teens lack a sense of connection with the adult community and are left to struggle with problems on their own or with each other. Parents who advocate on behalf of all teens in their community greatly enrich their teen’s own social environment and enhance the quality of life for families.

Every interaction with a responsible, caring adult can provide a teen with affirmation, appropriate boundaries, constructive time use and belonging. Parents play an important role in helping their own teens form positive connections with neighbors, relatives, employers, youth leaders, mentors, community leaders, ordinary citizens and other caring adults.

As a parent you can:

  1. Take cues from your teen: Help identify adults and community groups with interests and concerns that match your teen’s interests and concerns. Facilitate connections through making introductions and extending invitations.
  2. Get to know the adults involved with your teen. Make sure those relationships are positive and healthy.
  3. Have conversations to help your teen reflect on their experiences with adults in the community.
  4. Demonstrate the importance of community involvement by participating in community events, activities, and organizations.
  5. Become active in community groups whose members come from a variety of backgrounds and age groups.
  6. Encourage your teen to participate appropriately in your conversations and activities with adults.
  7. Contact adults who specialize in working with young people if you are concerned your teen might be developing a serious problem.

Parents can also make important contributions to their communities, helping create a vital and healthy environment for all teens. They can begin by assessing what their own groups and workplaces are doing for youth and work with other concerned people to set goals and create ways to reach out to youth.

To find more tips and benefits on asset building in adolescents, see:

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension offers a variety of educational program throughout the state including an educational program called Building Strong Adolescents. To find a program near you, go to for more information.

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