Youth Engagement Toolkit

Starting A Group

Adult Roles

All young people deserve access to a caring and responsible adult and opportunities to increase knowledge and skills for the improvement of self and community.

Adult leadership and support is critical to the success of any youth group. Through the creation and maintenance of strong relationships with youth, adult leaders provide structure and guidance, harnessing the youths' motivations and ideas for successful outcomes.

TIPS: How to be the best adult ally you can be

  • Give youth the power to make decisions and the responsibility for the consequences of their decisions
  • Expand expectations and responsibilities with age - engage youth more as they become seasoned veterans of the group
  • Ensure youth are provided with the training and support needed to take on new levels of responsibility and decision-making
  • Be a true partner
    • Get to know the youth personally
    • Create a friendly environment so youth feel comfortable talking to you
    • Remember that respect goes both ways
    • Share your experience and wisdom, but don't be patronizing or condescending
    • Listen!
  • Be consistent and committed
    • Check in regularly
    • Communicate often - texts, emails, phone, social networking sites, snail mail - Don't rely on just one type of communication, use them all!
  • Don't leave! - youth need to feel a consistency in the adult guidance they are receiving.
  • Be inclusive
  • Don't have favorites
  • Give everyone opportunities
  • Be responsive to youth direction and input
  • Compliment the youth
    • Celebrate accomplishments and successes
    • Be positive
    • No matter what the age, everyone loves a compliment and recognition of achievement
  • Be honest with yourself

What the CDC Youth Engagement Guide Says

It is clear that young people can play an important role in community tobacco control policies. However, there is a complimentary need for adult support.

Adult allies/collaborators who are most successful at supporting youth advocacy efforts:

  • Relate well and care about young people
  • Are flexible and thrive in creative, sometimes chaotic environments
  • Have good advocacy skills and are not intimidated by community heavyweights or state legislators
  • Possess an understanding of policy advocacy campaigns and are sufficiently trained to implement them
  • Are well-informed about specific tobacco control issues
  • Are comfortable talking about tough issues

More Tips For Adults

Young people must give up the notion that adults are domineering task masters who want to keep all command, and, on the other end of the spectrum, adults must acknowledge that young people have something of value to contribute. A trust for each other is needed.

FOR ADULTS, this means:

  • Being open to the energy and insights of young people.
  • Learning to work with youth, not for them.
  • Listening to youth rather than telling them.
  • Letting go of your role as a parent or teacher to share power and responsibilities


Making the Case for Youth Participation by Loring Leifer and Michael McLarney From Younger Voices, Stronger Choices

More information from the Free Child Project