Surrounding Your Child with Caring Adults

Parent and author of Connect 5: Finding the Caring Adults You May Not Realize Your Teen Needs Kathleen Kimball-Baker recommends that all parents help their kids connect with other trusted adults. Why? It’s good for kids to know other adults believe in them, care about them, and can teach them things.

It helps parents, too. Kimball-Baker writes this about asking several adults to befriend her daughter: “ . . . it helped me realize that as a parent, I truly did not and do not have to go it alone. I don’t have to be all things at all times, and my kids are better off having more responsible, caring adults in their lives. And very likely, I am a better parent for it.”

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Get involved in a class, group, or informal network with other parents and young children. Even if you don’t separate from your children, encourage them to spend time with the other adults.
    • If your children are in childcare or preschool, take time to get to know the adults there. Talk with them about your children’s personalities, likes and dislikes, and other attributes. Help them get to know your kids.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Connect with teachers. If you can, volunteer in the classroom. If you’re not able to be present, stay in touch through voicemail and e-mail. Offer support and encouragement, and ask for feedback about how your child is doing.
    • Plan activities with other families so your children get to know other parents and you get to know children from other families.
    • If you think it would help your child, look into a formal mentoring program through your school or a community organization. Many programs can match kids this age with an adult who will be a supporter and friend for years to come.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Get to know your neighbors and make sure they know your kids. Learn one another’s names, pay attention to what’s happening with all neighborhood kids, and get out and do things that show your neighbors you care (like cleaning up trash or helping others with chores).
    • Teach your children how to talk to adults, including what to do if they begin to feel uncomfortable, and what are (and are not) appropriate boundaries.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Your children are at an age where they might start wanting a part-time job. Encourage them to look for businesses where newer, younger employees have lots of chances to learn from adults who have more experience. Smaller, local businesses are good places to start.
  • Do your best to keep teens connected with extended family: older cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. It can be easy to drift apart as kids get older, so if you’ve had a routine or usual way of visiting you may need to look for fresh alternatives.

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