What is an Adult Ally to Young People?

An “adult ally” is “a person who is a member of the dominant or majority age group who work to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate for, young people.”*
“Allies are adults who advocate and support young people. They assist young people in their lives, support them when they struggle, and let them know how important they are and that change is possible.”

Adult allies have been remarkably effective in promoting positive change in society. Over the past 40 years adult allies have worked in organizations and communities around the world to make adult culture more aware of bias and discrimination against young people, and challenging of the privileges automatically given to adults.

20 Ways to Be An Adult Ally to Young People

An adult ally strives to…
  1. be a friend to young people and adults
  2. be a listener
  3. be open-minded
  4. have his or her own opinions about age
  5. be willing to talk
  6. commit him or herself to personal growth in spite of the discomfort it may sometimes cause
  7. recognize his or her personal boundaries about age
  8. recognize when to refer young people or other adults to additional resources
  9. confront his or her own prejudices about age
  10. join others with a common purpose
  11. believe that all persons regardless of age, sex, race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation should be treated with dignity and respect
  12. engage in the process of developing a culture free of age-based oppression
  13. recognize his or her mistakes, but not use them as an excuse for inaction
  14. be responsible for empowering his or her role in a community, particularly as it relates to responding to adultism and adultcentrism
  15. recognize the legal powers and privileges that adults have and which young people are denied
  16. believes that youth can “be youth” and be partners and meaningful participants
  17. is clear about his or her intentions as an adult ally
  18. fosters environments where young people feel comfortable and respected
  19. does not assume that youth only know about “youth issues”
  20. supports young people’s development as meaningful partners and leaders

As important as it is to define what an adult ally is in a positive sense, it is also helpful to understand the boundaries of an adult ally’s role.

An adult ally is NOT…
  • someone with ready-made answers
  • necessarily a counselor, nor are they necessarily trained to deal with crisis situations
  • expected to proceed with an interaction if levels of comfort or personal safety have been violated

Sources

Sources in this post include Washington, J. and Evans, N. J. (1991). “Becoming an Ally,” in N. J Evans and V. A. Wall (eds) Beyond tolerance: Gays, lesbians and bisexuals on campus. Alexandria, VA: American College Personnel Association and (2002) Get the Word Out! Boston: Youth On Board. Some other sources I’ve used for this include this PDF and this PDF, this PDF and this PDF. Learn more here, here and here.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *