5 reasons youth need Trusted Adults

5 reasons youth need Trusted Adults

By Blaire Ward, Evaluation Coordinator 
September 22, 2016

What does it mean to be a Trusted Adult? It’s easy: it means that the youth in your life feel comfortable approaching you with personal problems, difficult or uncomfortable questions, and overall feel safe and respected in their relationship with you. It also means that you as an adult feel confident and comfortable approaching the young people in your life about sensitive situations and issues.

Becoming a Trusted Adult takes time and patience; after all, trust has to be earned, and can be easily broken. But recent data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey shows that the time and patience required to become a Trusted Adult is well worth it. 

Multiple findings from the survey point to the importance of youth having a Trusted Adult in their lives, whether that adult is a parent, guardian, teacher, or other adult figure. Here are 5 findings from the Healthy Kids Colorado survey that show why youth need Trusted Adults in their lives:

1) Students without a Trusted Adult are about 11% more likely to use marijuana. Weed might be legal in Colorado, and there are still plenty of debates raging over its legalization. But there’s one thing just about everyone can agree on: teens shouldn’t smoke pot. In a study from The Lancet Psychiatry, research showed that teens who smoked marijuana daily were 60 percent less likely to graduate high school or college than those who didn’t—and seven times more likely to attempt suicide. Even teens who only smoked monthly were at a higher risk of underachievement.

2) Students with a Trusted Adult are about 14% less likely to drink alcohol. Drinking is another activity that’s best left to adults. Because adolescents’ brains are still developing, drinking alcohol as a teen can cause learning problems or lead to adult alcoholism. According to a 2013 study from the Department of Health and Human Services, adults who had started to drink alcohol at age 14 or younger were much more likely to be classified with alcohol dependence or abuse than adults who had their first drink at age 21 or older.

3) Students with a Trusted Adult are more likely to practice safer sex. The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey showed that youth who have a Trusted Adult were almost 20% more likely to have used a condom during their last sexual encounter than those without one (65.5% vs. 48.07%). When youth engage in sexual activity, they need to be doing it safely, as much for their mental and physical health as for the sake of avoiding an unplanned pregnancy.

4) LGB youth are about half as likely as heterosexual youth to have a Trusted Adult in their lives to ask about personal issues (33.27% vs 15.32%), which is a huge problem because LGB youth can face significant challenges in their adolescence. They face homophobic families and communities and, consequently, higher rates of bullying. This culture of discrimination leads to harassed LGB youth struggling with their academics. More troublingly, LGB youth also face higher rates of depression, sexual assault, homelessness, and suicide.

5) Transgender youth are twice as likely NOT to have a Trusted Adult (35.52% vs. 16.68% of cis students). A 2009 national survey from GLSEN found that 82% of trans youth felt unsafe at school. Harassed transgender students had significantly lower GPAs, were more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety, and were less likely to plan on continuing their education. Trans youth also now uniquely face the bathroom debate, where they are shamed for or even prohibited against using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Similarly to LGB youth, trans youth face higher rates of depression, sexual assault, homelessness, and suicide. For all of these reasons, it is absolutely crucial for LGB and trans youth to have Trusted Adults in their lives to validate them, to support them, and to empower them in often hostile environments. 

In short, youth who have access to Trusted Adults are more likely to engage in healthy decision-making, and the populations who are greatly in need of Trusted Adult support are currently at greater risks of lacking those relationships. As adults, it is our job to continue our own education so that we can be informed Trusted Adults in the lives of youth. It’s up to us to ensure that ALL youth have access to a Trusted Adult, regardless of their identity. Stand with Colorado Youth Matter and pledge to be a Trusted Adult to the youth in your life!

Want to know more about how to become Trusted? Check out other entries in our TRUST blog series, where you can learn how to answer difficult questions from youth.