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February 2016: Adolescent Health Essential: Positive Connections with Supportive People

February, 2016

Adolescents flourish when they have positive connections with supportive people. That’s why having positive connections is one of the Five Essentials for Healthy Adolescents identified in the national call to action, Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow℠ (TAG). Although adolescents often seem increasingly independent, they still want and need safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with supportive people. Parents, coaches, neighbors, grandparents, teachers, supervisors, program directors, spiritual leaders, peers or mentors can play a role in providing the supportive connections that are important for all teens and contribute to their current and long-term health. Supportive adults can be role models, mentors, friends, sounding boards, and catalysts for volunteering and other positive community involvement.

The Health Connection

Research shows that:

  • Teens who have positive connections with supportive adults are less likely to engage in drug and heavy alcohol use; be delinquent or involved in crime; or be homeless later in life than adolescents without those connections.
  • Teens who have one or more caring adults in their lives are more resilient than adolescents who do not have these relationships.
  • Adolescents who participated in certain resilience-building programs, particularly those with parents, experienced decreases in problems with anger and aggression, levels of perceived stress, susceptibility to peer pressure, and alcohol and illicit drug use, as compared with adolescents who did not participate in such programs.
  • Teens who have caring teachers or religious involvement are more likely to have a successful transition to adulthood than adolescents who do not have those supports.

TAG in Action: A Winning Approach

The HHS Office of Adolescent Health has identified a number of successful strategies for improving and promoting adolescent health. The Sources of Strength program builds social networks that promote connections between youth and caring adults. The program trains peer leaders to use positive social norming methods to prevent youth suicide, bullying, violence and substance abuse. Peer leaders create a healthy climate and culture shift by demonstrating that seeking help from adults is a sign of bravery and courage, not weakness.

What Can You Do?

Here are some resources for building positive relationships between youth and adults:

  • Talking with Teens – How You Make a DifferenceTips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your adolescent and helping him or her manage relationships with other people. (HHS Office of Adolescent Health)
  • Talk. They Hear You. – Public service announcements, a smartphone app, and other resources to help parents and caregivers start talking to their children early about the dangers of alcohol. (HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration)
  • Safety Net Assessment Tool – Assess your program’s ability to build supportive relationships with adolescents. (REACH: Supporting Military Families through Research and Outreach.)
  • National Mentoring Resource Center – Comprehensive and reliable resource for mentoring tools, program and training materials, and information. (DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)

The Power of Supportive People

Anthony Robles and Caitlin Cahow, two all-star athletes and members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN), have a positive message for adults who care about youth. They share how their connections to supportive people (parents and coaches) helped them achieve their goals and encourage adults to get involved in TAG.

See what they have to say and use these social media images to spread the word!


TAG Tweets of the Month (Please tweet!)

Star athlete Robles @FitnessGov Mom's love & support of coaches/mentors helped me reach dreams #TAG42Mil https://youtu.be/tnIJlysTtvE

World champion hockey star Cahow: "Coaches and mentors helped me reach for my dreams” @FitnessGov #TAG42Mil https://youtu.be/cJ7nV0mFIQo

Connections to supportive people help adolescents grow up healthy -- that’s the goal of #TAG42mil http://ow.ly/XBwW5

Study finds relationships help youth re-engage w/#school https://www.americaspromise.org/sites/default/files/d8/inline-files/DQOM_Short_report.pdf #edchat #TAG42mil

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on February 22, 2017