Often, in a world where sexuality education and social emotional education is being actively deconstructed in many school districts, we hear that parents and caregivers should be the source of children’s information regarding sexuality, relationships, mental and emotional health, and values. Yet parents often feel drastically under-supported in creating spaces and conversations to be the source of all this information. We hear about “The Sex Talk”, as if human sexuality and healthy relationships can be quickly communicated over a single sit-down. We put teachers through years of education before we let them create curriculum explaining photosynthesis in green beans yet we expect a parent to wing the important and protective conversations on topics like consent, autonomy, and the intersection of faith and body?
Trusted Adults are the adults a child comes to with information and questions about their lives. The sharing that happens in these relationships builds the vessel where conversations about big life stuff (boundaries, sexuality, relationships, mental health, drug use, and all the rest) can unfold over the course of childhood and into early adulthood. Being given the trust of a child doesn’t always mean you have the right answers, but it means you have the space open. The good news is that being a more effective Trusted Adult is a skill you can build!
I want the Trusted Adults in your child’s life to be Informed, Approachable, and Flexible.
Informed: A Trusted Adult doesn’t need to know everything but it helps to have some basics down. Sometimes we just need a refresher ourselves. Sometimes we know for a fact we never *really* learned this stuff to begin with. Trusted Adults are the source of information on everything from anatomy to LGBTQIA+ inclusion to age-appropriate descriptions of mental health concerns. And realistically, that means we need to (re)learn some of this stuff ourself, first. The “101s” I offer are often about giving Trusted Adults the tools to be informed on a topic with enough depth and breadth to make sure they aren’t doing harm on the front end of a topic. You can always learn more if your particular child needs it!
Approachable: When you take the time to learn, practice, and implement the tools that let you be approachable you are not only creating space for specific conversations but also opening up continued dialog. This is different than knowing the material! This is about making the space to hear about a child’s life and making yourself receptive in body language and spoken word. This is about conveying comfort and a lack of shame or anxiety, and knowing how to comfortably say “I don’t know an answer, but I’ll help us find one!” when we are out of our depth.
Flexible: Even the most prepared and chill Trusted Adult is going to sometimes have a curveball thrown at them. Approaching the unexpected with curiosity, finding the answers to questions you don’t have the answers to, and finding peer-to-peer reassurance and guidance is an ongoing part of the process. Practicing the “I don’t know, let’s find out” is core to being a Flexible Trusted Adult. The 1:1 Coaching is a space to bring questions and concerns so that you can radiate calm and curiosity to your kid. From an odd sex question that is failing to conjure an age-appropriate response to digging for the right words to respond to an incident at school, 1:1 Coaching is there. This isn’t therapy, it’s a place to practice framing a response in an age-appropriate way.
With training and support any committed Trusted Adult can build the skills of becoming Informed, Approachable, and Flexible. Register for one of the upcoming trainings or schedule a 1:1 Coaching session if you need more support in becoming a Trusted Adult for the kids in your life. All trainings are provided on a sliding scale and nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.