Drone parents or empowering Mentors for our adolescents?

Drone parents or empowering Mentors for our adolescents?

Thinking again about how different life is today from when I was a child. What can you remember about your childhood?

I remember we climbed trees, created our own games indoors and outdoors, rode our bicycles, without helmets, to the local Park where we played on the variety of playground equipment available – Jungle Jims, seesaws, swings, roundabouts – caught tadpoles in the stream running through the Park, all without any adult supervision. We walked or rode to school without adult supervision and caught public transport, even in the evenings, without adult supervision. We jumped into a teacher’s car or another parent’s car if we were going to a sports match without any need of permission slips signed by our parents; we listened to the Top 20 hits of the week on a Sunday night from Radio Lourenco Marques (I was raised in Cape Town); we watched the international sports folk practising and mingled with them after and before matches, with no security guards evident; we listened to the radio, as we did not have Television – Kit Grayson Rides the Range or something like that; Squad Cars; Pick-a-Box, a Quiz Show; Squad Cars, a Detective program; Mark Saxon and Sir Gay Gromuko or something similar …….  yes, those were the days and how different from life today. The rare Computers were massive machines in large office areas with punch cards …. and so I could go on.

These thoughts occurred after I read an interesting Blog by Occupational Therapist, Victoria Prooday, The silent tragedy affecting today’s children, which has been read by over 10 million people during the past couple of months.Victoria expresses concern about the alarming statistics released by researchers during the past 15 years eg, 1 in 5 children with mental health problems; 43% increase in ADHD; 37% increase in teen depression and a 200% increase in suicide rates in kids between 10 and 14 years old.

An article in The Australian newspaper earlier this week quoted Michael Carr-Gregg, a leading Australian Psychologist, pointing out that one in every seven students in primary school and one in four in secondary schools had endured mental health issues, while youth suicide in Australia is at its worst in 10 years. “This is a generation that is really struggling: I’ve never seen anything like it, ” Michael said. “It speaks to me of a lack of resilience. The bottom line is that I don’t think we are preparing even the little kids or the biggest kids for adversity.”

Both Victoria and Michael express concerns about questionable parenting practices and I have seen more and more Drone parenting (yes, it’s that bad!) in recent years. Clearly we could be raising a generation that might struggle a great deal in the years ahead, all the more so if 50% of the current jobs will no longer exist, as some researchers are suggesting. If we don’t encourage our children to be creative and innovative, to climb trees and even fall out of them at times, to fail while trying something new, to verbally fight their own battles, what can we expect?

There are ongoing issues around adolescents not having sufficient sleep, having poor diets, not exercising enough, if at all, spending too much time being negatively impacted by social media instead of ‘talking’ to their friends and so I could go on.

This is where promoting the Spirit of Mentoring can play such a critical role in the life of adolescents, as those adolescents communicate with significant adults in their lives who might not be parents. It’s led me to work on developing a free App for adolescents and anyone interacting with them, containing a Daily Message of Inspiration which will guide them on a journey to become positive and motivated global citizens, the daily messages linked to the outcomes of much of the recent brain research. At the same time I am developing Mentoring Minutes Podcasts, two minute podcasts containing heaps and heaps of information to encourage anyone mentoring adolescents.

Why am I sharing all this?

While there are justifiable concerns about the protection and bubble-wrapping of our our young people, it is not difficult to change the narrative and develop strategies that will be self-empowering for our adolescents on their journey through one of the most confusing times of their lives. And, as a mentor, I can simply ask some questions, listen to the answers and make some suggestions before we develop strategies to live lives that might positively impact our Community, my mentee working out his goals, taking ownership of them and inviting me to join him on the journey for a season or two.

Here are a few thoughts from my book, The Spirit of Mentoring – a manual for adult volunteers. They are simply examples of the way to create positive discussions with a view to assisting your mentee to live a healthy and balanced life. I have added a few thoughts and deducted some sentences.

• How have you been doing in your schoolwork during the past three months? Compare your results. What are your strong and weak subjects? What subjects do you enjoy? Why? What subjects don’t you enjoy? Why not? What can we do to improve things for you?
• So you think your schoolwork isn’t great and you want to leave school? Have you thought about the importance of gaining the best education you possibly can to help your long-term career prospects? Let’s share some ideas to do with this.
• How much homework or extra study do you have? How are you handling it? Are there any ways I can support you or are there any resources you need?
• How much sleep do you get at night? When do you concentrate best in class, at work or during your training (as applicable)?
• Let’s look at the way you spend your time each week. I’ll share how I manage my time if you would like me to.
• What career or careers are you interested in? Let’s spend part of the mentoring journey exploring some of these options. See how much information you can find out about these careers. What subjects do you need to study for this career? Where you can further your studies? What are the opportunities for a job in this area? Maybe I can introduce you to friends who are in a career that you are interested in finding out more about. What are the options?
• What really interests you? What are you good at?
• Do you have a part-time job? What’s it like? How many hours each week are you working? What do you like or not like about it? Are you saving any money? Should we discuss how to budget?
• If you were applying for a part-time job you might need a CV?Resume. Would you like me to help you draw up a CV/Resume?

  • Your examinations start in three weeks. Let’s draw up a realistic revision schedule together.
  • Are you eating a regular breakfast? What are you having? And lunch?
  • How much time are you spending on social media each day/night?

• Are you using a diary? I am happy to show you my diary and we can explore ways of managing your time better so you will end up having more free time.
• Are there any particular sports you enjoy? Tell me about them. Have you been to any matches? Would you like to try out a sport?
• Are you a member of your local library? When did you last go there? Would you like me to go with you? Perhaps we could check out what’s in the library on possible careers for you or your interests. If you want to join, perhaps I could help.
• Imagine you have only two years left on Earth. What do you want to achieve by the end of that time so that people will appreciate the difference you have tried to make?

Sowing the seeds of the Spirit of Mentoring will have the power to speak messages of HOPE and possibility into the lives of our young people. If we can create partnerships with parents and teachers, as well as employers (where relevant), we shall raise a generation of resilient young people ready to face the challenges of the 21st Century and to create all those new jobs!

About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. He is currently developing a free app to inspire teenagers each day, as well as Mentoring Minutes Podcasts, 2 minute podcasts guiding mentors to encourage their mentees to become the best they can be. He hopes to have these ready by the end of 2017. Please contact him if you want updated progress reports. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or on Instagram or contact him through his YES! website