Article By Brooklyn Raney, Guest Expert and author of the book One Trusted Adult.
5 Minute Read
Looking back on your life, can you identify obstacles, hurdles, and risks that tripped you up, set you back, or interfered with your journey toward self-actualization and success?
With adult perspective, it becomes easier to identify which of the obstacles, hurdles, and risks were truly harmful, and which were simple childhood or adolescent woes that didn’t have long-lasting detrimental impact. Not getting the sneakers I wanted for my birthday; getting caught smoking cigarettes; self-hate and harm after being denied by a college I dreamed of attending— I can recall many obstacles that felt like the end of the world. As I reflect on my developing thoughts and behaviors, I can place these actions on a spectrum from silly to serious, but I can also vividly recall that in the moment they felt like life-altering, unmanageable, irreparable catastrophes! This is where trusted adults come in. At every turn, with every hurdle, I had multiple trusted adults to turn to whenever I was in need of cheerleading, comforting, confronting, or coaching. The research tells us that this is exactly what every child needs in order to survive and thrive.
A report titled The Science of Resilience by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a multidisciplinary collaboration chaired by Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Jack Shonkoff, poses the question “Why do some children adapt and overcome, while others bear lifelong scars that flatten their potential?” Through his research he has found a growing body of evidence that points to one common answer: “Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.”
Whether the obstacles to overcome are tech addiction, mental health issues, substance abuse, or college rejections, the greatest preventative and protective factor is a consistent, reliable, present, and trusted adult. This adult has to be important enough that the young person wants to make them proud; or, even better, important enough that the young person does not want to disappoint them.
Fortunately, many young people grow up with trusted adults in their home in the form of parents and guardians. Some, however, do not. Regardless, there is growing research that a relationship with a trusted adult outside of the home has an enormous significance on the development of youth. A study by Child Trends states that children who can identify a trusted adult outside of their home are more likely to stay calm in the face of challenges, show interest in learning new things, volunteer in the community, engage in physical activities, participate in out-of-school events, and be available for, and engaged in, learning. If we are interested in being trusted, reliable, and present adults for young people, one big step we can take is reflecting on who, if anyone, was there for us.
* If this exercise is grief-inducing because you are remembering neglect or abuse, please read the book of another one of our guest experts, Hilary Jacobs Hendel, who is a psychoanalyst and expert on emotions like grief and depression.
Brooklyn is the Founder and Lead Trainer of One Trusted Adult, an organization that provides programming for educators, parents and young people, to ensure that every young person has at least one trusted adult.
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