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What is a Trusted Adult?

“For youth, having at least one stable, supportive and committed adult consistently in their lives makes the biggest difference.” - Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child

A “trusted adult” is any stable, supportive and committed adult in a youth’s life. Research shows that when youth have meaningful connections with a trusted adult, they report much less mental health related problems and experience more positive youth development. Trusted adults are individuals that youth know they can go to if they need to talk about anything – without worrying about being judged.

Youth often do want to talk to adults about their everyday lives and struggles. However, many youth feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics with other adults than their parents, like a teacher, school counselor, coach or a youth pastor. Having a strong, effective relationship with an adult that uses positive communication to build trust and connectedness is critical for young people as they try to develop a positive sense of self in a world that often devalues them based on their identity, ability, background or status.

Some of the qualities of adults who are trustworthy include patience, consistency, respectfulness, honesty, kindness, attentiveness, trustworthiness, lightheartedness, open-mindedness, non-judgment, and knowledgeability. Trusted adults may also have a similar racial/ethnic or sexual identity as the young person, or common background experience.

Trusted adults make a personal commitment to:

  • Ask the youth in your life how you can be more accessible for them
  • Build meaningful relationships with youth
  • Enhance skills that will make you a more trusted adult
  • Get more informed about the topics that are important to the youth in your life

Four Skill Areas That Adults Can Strengthen to Be Effective Trusted Adults

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