The impact of family on an adolescent

The impact of family on an adolescent

What hope do I have in all reality working with Jason (not his real name) when he comes from such a dysfunctional family? I know I cannot be a saviour nor a rescuer.

I have found over the years that working with adolescent mentees is considerably more challenging when the family is not functioning well.

I have seen what I call ‘drone parents’ getting in the way, protecting their children because they have their own agendas for their children, thus contributing to the emergence of a ‘powderpuff’ generation of young people who will struggle in an increasingly entrepreneurial, innovative world where one might have to risk failure to achieve dreams.

I have seen parents with their own mental health issues becoming a mixture of drone or helicopter parents. They hover and interfere and much depends on their own mood swings with regard to how they react to situations involving their children.

Wearing my education and mentoring hats, as well as reflecting on years of experience working with young people, I can see the potential damage the parent’s suffocating love will cause, but I have to pull back, as I am unable to save a child or rescue a family.

So, all I do is try and sow lots of positive seeds of HOPE, trusting that one day the young person will remember the discussions, find another mentor and start actioning some of their own ideas without fearing failure or perfection.

Often I have seen how absent or inadequate or incompetent parenting has resulted in the mentee’s antisocial behaviour escalating and brain research tells us that this can ultimately lead to delinquency and chronic criminal behaviour.

Brain researchers also suggest that severe and chronic stress in an adolescent’s life can also be linked to physical and emotional abuse, though the good news is that deficits might not be permanent because of the plasticity of the brain.

Whenever I have worked with mentees in such situations, I have ALWAYS consulted people more experienced than I am with regard to mental health issues, as I’ll receive some helpful tips to keep on keeping on.

I guess this is why it’s important to keep reminding myself that a young person might enter my life for a season and I must do my level best to encourage him or her to become the best he or she can be, appreciating that the odds might be stacked against me because of domestic difficulties. However, just being present for the young person, sharing a thought or an idea might be a life-changing moment I only hear about one day, maybe never hear about.

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. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website