Frequent Questions and Concerns about Caring Relationships

Why do kids need other caring adults outside of their family?

Most happy, successful adults talk about the significant people who made a difference in their lives when they were children or teenagers. Many cite their parents, but many also talk about another important adult: a teacher, a coach, a club leader, or a neighbor. Having caring parents is only one factor that kids need to succeed. They also need other adults who care for, encourage, and support them.

What’s important in a caring relationship?

Being an adult friend or mentor is not as challenging as it seems. The adult simply needs to talk to the child, get to know the child well, and become fond of the child. Asking the child’s name is an easy place to start. Kids know right away which adults care about them—and which ones don’t. They gravitate toward adults who love being with them.

Why don’t more adults get involved in the lives of kids?

Many adults have never been asked. They don’t realize the potential they have to make a difference in a child’s life. Adults who are asked to read books aloud to preschoolers or to rock babies to sleep in a child-care nursery are often surprised how much they enjoy being with kids—and how much kids enjoy being with them. No one is too old or too young. No one needs experience. All they need to do is be themselves and be open to the wonders of a relationship with a child.

Why is it hard to get adults involved with teenagers?

Many adults are comfortable with young children but are afraid of teenagers. Our society has overemphasized the “horrors” of adolescence instead of the promise of it. Members of older generations sometimes are put off by the fashions, fads, and music that teenagers enjoy. Yet most adults who get involved with teenagers are surprised by how smart and enjoyable teens are. Many adults are reintroduced to hidden passions and interests they have after experiencing the enthusiasm of teenagers.

How do I make safe connections for my child?

Be very cautious about letting your children spend one-on-one, private time with another adult. Your kids may not see a problem with it, but it’s important for their safety that you know who they are with, where they will be, and what they will be doing. Make a strong effort to get to know your child’s adult friends and mentors, and encourage your child to introduce you to them. Be sure you are comfortable with how they treat your child, their values, and how they spend time together.

I feel weird asking for help—what do I say?

You may feel awkward asking another adult to spend time with your child, but remember how important it is to connect your child with other caring adults. Think about talking to the people you see frequently, such as your coworkers or extended family members. Ask them if they’d be willing to spend a little time with your child, especially if they share an interest. Start with an invitation, such as, “Would you like to join us for a basketball game this weekend? My daughter is on the varsity team, and I know she’d love to talk with someone who played in college.”