Submitted by Thurston County Public Health
So many of us have teens or tweens in our lives – at home, at work, at church, or in other activities. Research shows that when kids have at least one stable, supportive relationship with an adult their health improves. This holds true for young children and remains extremely important for older kids.
Recently released results from the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey provide some good news about the presence of caring adults in the lives of local youth, but also signals that too many middle school and high school students are still missing this important connection with adults. According to the Thurston County survey results:
- 4 in 5 middle and high school students say they can talk to a parent or guardian about problems.
- 3 in 4 middle and high school students say there is an adult in their neighborhood or community that they can talk to about important issues.
However, the survey also shows that:
- 1 in 10 middle and high school students say they have no adults they can turn to.
Kids need positive relationships with adults who support, guide and value them. Positive adult connections help them develop their potential, bounce back when things don’t go well, and reduce their risk for a range of poor health outcomes including substance use, depression and risky sexual behavior.
According to the Thurston County survey results:
- 1 in 3 high school students who could talk to their parent or guardian about a problem experienced depression in the past year. For those who could not talk to their parent or guardian, 2 in 3 have experienced depression.
- 1 in 3 high school students who could talk to an adult in their neighborhood or community had experienced depression in the past year. For those who had no adult like this to talk to, the figure was 1 in 2 having experienced depression.
Caring adults are often parents or other family members, but not all adolescents have a positive connection with family. No matter where you connect with tweens or teens, consider doing more of the following things:
- Encourage them to take part in activities they enjoy and that you can do together.
- Encourage them to try new things. Suggest positive activities that allow them to practice skills and feel good about themselves.
- Ask about their friends, and help them identify friends that make them feel happy and confident.
- When you talk with them, ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Help them share.
- Invite them to talk about their successes and challenges, and teach them the value of the process—not just the final achievement.
- Say the positive things you notice about them. Don’t just think it. Tell them.
- Use your time with them to explore their future goals and engage with them about how to establish realistic steps to achieve them.
Caring and open communication is important for kids. Every time you connect with a tween or teen and listen to them, comfort them or inspire them you are helping to build their potential and protect their health. The presence of caring adults is a protective factor for children and youth.
For more information on talking with adolescents, you can visit: