Why your mentoring of teenagers is critically important

Why your mentoring of teenagers is critically important

Think back to your teenage years. Which adults had the most positive influence on your life? Why was this? What can you learn from that experience or those experiences and pass on to the next generation? When I was a teenager there were no mobile phones, social media platforms or X-Box games and so on and even then it was challenging. I was confused, often frustrated, moved between having high-self-esteem and low self-esteem, had to work through challenging family times and experienced the normal mood swings of any teenager. Our teachers and other adults in our lives did not have the benefit of adolescent brain research that shapes so much of our thinking today. Yet I sought out coaches, especially, who spoke to my potential I was not seeing, who listened to me and who empathically guided me through those challenging years. Mentoring guru, Marc Freedman, wrote one of the greatest books I have read on youth mentoring, The Kindness of Strangers – Adult Mentors, Urban Youth and the New Voluntarism, in 1993. It is as valid today as it was back then. Freedman mentions what he refers to as “a set of timely and attractive properties” that helps explain the emergence of mentoring “as a means of achieving social linkage”. 6 properties to understand the power of mentoring I am sharing these six properties and give all the credit to Marc Freedman for the content of the Blog, extracts being taken from pages 56 to 58 of his book. Mentoring is simple. The “one to one” concept takes an overwhelming set of social problems, such as those associated...
Why Teenagers need YOUR support and encouragement

Why Teenagers need YOUR support and encouragement

When you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant influence on your life? Why was this the case? How did they influence you? Shelagh was my Grade One teacher, tough as nails on the outside, compassionate and caring when one got to know her. What was absolutely clear was that she gave her best to motivate, encourage and guide us as young children settling into Primary School. I wanted to do well for her, although her message was motivating me to reach my potential through making positive choices. On reflection, I think I had my most successful year academically that year – the power of an influential teacher! Shelagh also had a beautiful Alsatian, Alannah, which occasionally accompanied her to the classroom and received pampering from all the students. When I was seriously ill with cancer, Shelagh was there for me in her own quiet, empathetic and supportive way. She generously gave me a book of wild animals which I kept for over 50 years. She wrote me ‘get well’ cards. Although I was not interacting with her a great deal, the fact that she cared and was an encouragement and support to me, positively impacted my life and inspired me to become a teacher myself. We kept in touch all the way through my school days, indeed, until she finally passed away of old age. A special person who has left me with so many wonderful memories and I probably never really told her what a powerful impact she had had on my young life. Lessons from mentoring youth Mine isn’t the...
Life-changing moments when you invest time in the life of a teenager

Life-changing moments when you invest time in the life of a teenager

Can you remember a moment when an adult invested time in your teenage life and made a positive and significant impact? How did your non-judgmental cheerleader encourage you? What three positive qualities can you remember about them? How did they guide you to be yourself and not bow to negative peer pressure? Time and time again I hear stories of the way mentors, often teachers, have impacted the lives of teenagers. In so many cases the adult had no idea they were having such a positive influence. My non-judgmental cheerleaders over the years had some similar qualities – all spoke to the potential in me that I could not see; all had a great sense of humour; all showed empathy towards me, quietly moved alongside me and encouraged me; all would never accept a half-hearted effort from me and taught me to strive to be the best person I could be – all developed meaningful relationships with me and there was always mutual respect when we interacted. Without even realizing it, some of these people became significant mentors during my life journey. Pass on the legacy And those qualities these teachers and coaches expressed towards me are those I have worked hard to develop when working with teenagers over the years. So often we forget the power of the smile, one encouraging phrase shared at an important moment in a vulnerable teenager’s life, a friendly wave from a distance or an encouraging SMS simply because we think it might be appreciated. It is in these small, seemingly insignificant moments that we can actually be life changers in the lives...
10 Tips for you to make positive connections with teenagers

10 Tips for you to make positive connections with teenagers

Think back to how you established meaningful relationships with adults when you were a teenager. Who were these people? Why did you choose to communicate with them? How did they assist your personal development and growth? Teachers, coaches, grandparents, youth workers, faith leaders, possibly an employer. Whoever connects with us will be because we have responded positively to their willingness to interact with us during the often confusing times of our adolescent journey. Most of us respond to people who encourage us, believe in us and are non-judgmental. They listen to us, respect our ideas and help us gain meaning and purpose in our lives as we journey through the often confusing teenage years while our brains are still developing. Teenagers are unpredictable and moody. This is normal as they try and find their way and deal with the incredible pressures of peers and sometimes the demanding parents. 10 Tips to connect with teenagers My research, in this case with a focus on youth mentoring research, offers 10 important tips to help volunteer adults establish meaningful relationships with teenagers. There is no ‘one’ way, as every teenager is a unique individual. These tips, however, should ensure meaningful relationships are established.v 1. Meet on ‘neutral turf’ in public places as often as you can in the early months, for safety and security reasons. Meet at the same time and the same place for the first few meetings to establish the rapport. 2. Keep the focus on your mentee. Encourage mentees to talk about their lives, their interests, their things. Talk as little as possible about yourself and, when you do...
How you can help a teenager set personal goals – quick, proven tips

How you can help a teenager set personal goals – quick, proven tips

What would you do if you could leave school today and had all the qualifications you need? You have to pay rent, transport costs, mobile phone costs, clothing, food and daily living expenses and so on. So, you must acquire a job, which includes being self-employed and setting up their own business! That’s the type of conversation I often have when I meet teenagers and have begun to establish a meaningful relationship with them. “I don’t know!” is not an acceptable answer, as I remind them that they have a good brain that needs to be used 🙂 This conversation will inevitably unpack a passion and, once we have identified that, we can start talking about careers in the future, maybe including an entrepreneurial project while the student is still at school. If the latter, we talk about meeting a successful entrepreneur for a further chat. We explore the qualifications needed, skills required, university or some other tertiary institution that will have to be attended. We talk about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. We start identifying strengths and link these to the goal getting journey, as this will build a more resilient teenager. And so, the goal setting process begins. As the student seems to have a meaning and purpose to his or her life, they can see that action will need to be taken to achieve this fulfillment of a passion. In so many young lives, this conversation becomes the game-changer. Suddenly, things begin to clear and they see a pathway into a bright and potentially exciting future. 15 Goal Getting Tips for Effective Mentors You can...
10 positive ways you can connect with a teenage mentee

10 positive ways you can connect with a teenage mentee

Do you feel that you are struggling to connect with a teenager in a mentoring relationship? Can you recall how the mentors in your teenage life connected with you? Think about the adults in your teenage life who might have inspired you – why was this? How important are meaningful relationships in your life? Questions, questions and more questions with no straightforward answers as we each bring our back story into our relationships with others. The adults who impacted my teenage life showed a genuine interest in me, encouraged me, listened to my ramblings, mutterings, emotional outbursts, complaints, spoke to the potential I could not see at the time, taught me how to laugh at myself and to have fun in a positive, responsible way and so much more. They were authentic wise guides on the side to whom I shall always be indebted for their many and varied contributions during my confusing adolescent journey. 10 positive ways to connect with a teenager Perhaps you have joined a mentoring program and are wondering how you are going to develop a meaningful relationship with your mentee after the training is over. Hopefully, you will receive many tips on how to do this. Here are 10 positive ways to connect with your teenage mentee, a collation of the most common tips I have gathered over many years researching youth mentoring and adolescent development. All the tips might not apply to your situation, so simply focus on what might be relevant. 1. Meet on ‘neutral turf’ in public places as often as you can in the early months, for safety and security...