How you can empathize with teenagers

How you can empathize with teenagers

Can you remember how you felt about yourself when you were aged 13 or 14? Did you have loads of self-confidence or many self-doubts? When you looked in the mirror did you feel lovable and capable or unsure of who you were, did not like the image before your eyes and had many confused thoughts? How did you respond to peer pressure? A while ago I asked some young people, aged 13 and 14, to complete an anonymous questionnaire about how they view themselves. Their responses highlighted the importance of connecting with their school community, preferably having some non-judgmental adult cheerleaders to encourage them on their journey. Empathize with teenagers “I am not good with teamwork.” (male) “I care about others and don’t like to see my friends hurt.” (female) “I need to stand up for people more. But I am positive and I want to make the world a better place.” (male) “I am not scared to stand up and tell people what’s right.” (female) “I see that I have lots of friends and feel safe in that community. I stand up for what’s right even though there are consequences.” (male) “I see that I am headstrong and stand up for what is right. I also care about people and want to make a positive difference in the world. I could improve in knowing when I need help or not.” (female) “I am more willing to help others more than myself. I am not very confident in myself.” (male) “I am stubborn, but I know when to step down. I care about others and want to help them...
5 Key qualities for you to be a Great Mentor of Teenagers

5 Key qualities for you to be a Great Mentor of Teenagers

Do you think young people, especially teenagers, need volunteer adult mentors to guide them through the challenging years of their adolescence? I was close to completing my daily morning walk a few hours ago and passed two groups of students on their way to school. The first group was about 13 years of age or so, a couple of boys trying to grab the attention of the girls, nothing unusual about that. The second group was a year or two older and this time two girls were trying to attract the attention of three or four boys. Listening to the banter going on between these young people, the impact that peer pressure was having on each of them, probably in different ways, underlined for me how important it is for young people to have non-judgmental trusted adult Cheerleaders in their lives. The value of connection What was clear from these two groups of students was that every one of them, without exception, valued a connection with peers, that sense of belonging. How that plays out during the day, weeks and months, I have no idea, though some relationships will probably be strengthened and others might become wobbly, even fall apart. Who do these young people turn to for encouragement, support and guidance, I wondered? The power of mentoring I was browsing the internet yesterday wondering if there are any organisations in New Zealand that run mentoring programs for School Principals and Senior Leaders in schools, as I thought that is something I could become involved in now that I am retired. I am still incredibly grateful for the former...
7 ways you can better understand and encourage today’s Teenagers

7 ways you can better understand and encourage today’s Teenagers

How do you ensure that teenagers grow up to be happy and positive young people? Given that their brains are developing until they are in their mid-20s, we know that there are mood swings, irritable moments, impulsive actions with no or little thought, explosive outbursts, sometimes an inability to focus or follow through on a task, overcome the temptations to use drugs, alcohol and engage in other antisocial behaviours and so on. Well-known author and educator, Sir Kenneth Robinson, makes this point: “How we think about the world around us can be deeply affected by the feelings within us, and how we feel may be critically shaped by our knowledge, perceptions and personal experiences. Our lives are formed by the constant interactions between these two worlds, each affecting how we see and act in the other.” Neuroscientist, Dr Francis Jensen, reminds us that the teenage brain is ‘a puzzle waiting completion’, so what can we do to better understand and encourage today’s Teenagers to become the best they can be? My research over the past 20 years continually reminds me that our young people want to FEEL: cared for (loved unconditionally); valued; that their lives have meaning and purpose. Consider these 7 Ways you can better understand and encourage today’s teenagers: Most of today’s teenagers learn best by doing things, reflecting on the experience and learning lessons from the activity which they can then apply to their daily lives and often they enjoy sharing their thinking and experiences in groups. We can help them make sense of what appears at times to be much confusion. Teenagers value and appreciate recognition...
8 positive life lessons for you from dying children

8 positive life lessons for you from dying children

What do you love most in life? This is the question South African paediatrician, Dr Alastair McAlpine, asked the terminally ill children he was caring for. Living in the 21st Century Digital Age, their answers might surprise you.None of the children wished that they had spent more  time online or watching TV. “Often kids even in very short lives can teach us so much,” Dr McAlpine shared. He looked around at local and global issues and was struck by so much depressing news. “It made me think of these amazing children I deal with who are facing real problems. If they could be positive and upbeat, I felt others should be.” 8 of the positive life lessons these children teach us include: be kind; read more books; spend time with family; crack jokes; go to the beach; hug your dog; tell that special person you love them; and eat ice cream. As I read this article one word came to mind: RELATIONSHIPS.  Relationships with family, people and animals – face to face relationships. That reminded me how important and powerful significant adults are in the lives of young people and most especially in the lives of teenagers as they face all the challenges and confusions life throws at them at a time when their bodies and brains are developing in extraordinary ways. After a six to nine month mentoring relationship with a trained volunteer adult mentor as part of the GR8 Mates school-based youth mentoring program, the importance of a new relationship was echoed in the following thanks from Tony (not his real name) to his mentor at the final...
There is always a solution to teenager cyberbullying

There is always a solution to teenager cyberbullying

How do you work through social media issues with young people? In Australia we had another teenage suicide linked to cyberbullying in recent weeks, although, as people working in the field of mental health have pointed out, there might be many factors leading to a decision by a young person to end their life, even if cyber bullying has contributed to this fateful decision. One suicide is one too many for me. How are we to approach the comments on social media from people trying to impress, trying to shock, sometimes deliberately writing hurtful comments?Not that long ago I decided to stand up for my values and beliefs and challenge a young adult man I knew to think more carefully before he posted some fairly aggressive, cruelly judgmental material. A couple of his friends proceeded to launch aggressive and judgmental attacks on me and, when I questioned one of them, discovered that he had not even read my comment. Then another young woman entered the conversation and decided to make fun of me as well, at which point I pressed the ‘delete’ button and also blocked a ‘friend’. The mistake I made was probably writing something on the post instead of messaging the young man and keeping our conversation off the public platform. I learnt an important social media lesson from that experience. What concerns me with the antisocial social media behaviour of teenagers is that, while their brains are still developing, they might immediately become involved in an emotional outburst, which might well be normal in such circumstances, and that can spiral into all sorts of negative consequences....
15 goal-getting results from mentoring partnerships

15 goal-getting results from mentoring partnerships

How do you feel when you achieve a goal? I feel like celebrating somehow, especially when I have had to stretch myself and move well out of my comfort zone. If we can remember how we became goal getters, we have a story to share with our mentees, many of whom will need plenty of support to wish to embark on a goal getting program. 2018 has arrived and, early in January, I sit down and, over a few days, set my goals for the year. I break these down into monthly goals and am able to stay focused on leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I have done this for many years and, even though I am now retired, I still set goals around family, my faith walk, personal development, health, exercise and wellbeing and my interests. More ands more Neuroscience research that I am reading is pointing to the importance of setting goals as an important aspect of adolescent brain development. This all reminded me of some examples of goals achieved by adolescent mentees during a mentoring relationship in programs I have been linked with. These examples might encourage volunteer adult mentors and help them to appreciate that there is such a variety of goals one can encourage in a mentoring relationship, some fairly straightforward. 1. A mentee’s grades in one academic subject improved from 28% to 50%. 2. A mentee worked on lifting weights at a gym, which the mentor used to teach goal setting. They had a great relationship. 3. A mentee obtained a part-time job with the help of a mentor. 4. A mentee...