Robin's Mentoring Matters Blog

Tips, ideas, thoughts and opinions to motivate and inspire all who guide young people as they journey through adolescence to adulthood.

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...

How you can encourage a teenager who wants to drop out

Were there any times in your youth when you felt like dropping out of school? Personal issues clouded your judgment, perhaps? Or you felt that you had no-one to turn to? Or you feared leaving school because you had no idea what career to follow? We have no idea what lies around the corner later today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. It is unknown territory especially for our youth who are continually hearing that many of today’s jobs will disappear, yet no-one knows what the future job market will hold. The storm clouds of confusion are threatening and never seem to move along.  Over the years I have spent time with young people who have been struggling with issues like these for a variety of reasons. Some have wanted to give up completely and leave school, believing that they can find a job and that is all that is important. There will be a story behind these feelings, as there always is and, if you are in a mentoring role, you will probably be able to discern what is going on as you and your mentee establish a trusting and meaningful relationship. Be patient, as this might take some time. So often young people need encouragement to share what is on their mind knowing that they will not be judged. Often they need reassurance that their current state of confusion is experienced by an overwhelming number of teenagers at a variety of times during the adolescent journey. There are occasions when they might need a reality check before they make a decision, such as dropping out...

10 Daily Tips for you to encourage Teenagers to fulfill their potential

Did you have any superstitions or strange habits when you were an adolescent? I certainly did. When I was padding up to bat in a Cricket match, I always put my left pad on first. Why on earth did I do that? It seems so strange when I think about it now. You will see some of the top Tennis players, for example, have superstitions – how they walk off the court at the end of the game; how they move at the end of a point; how they lay out their seating area; mannerisms before they serve a ball …. Or, did you have something special you did to rid yourself of exam nerves, as Angie did? “You’ll think this is really silly,” Angie said to me when we were chatting about positive preparation for her final exams. “Nothing is silly if it helps you stay calm and rids you of stress,” I responded. “Well, before I write my exams, I listen to a whole lot of my favorite Disney film songs,” Angie informed me with a broad smile. “It just works for me and makes me feel calm and happy.” “And your brain is releasing some chemicals that will help you feel positive and calm, a ‘feel good’ effect,” I was able to offer as a word of encouragement. Australian psychologist, Andrew Fuller, comments in his excellent book – well worth reading, as it is loaded with helpful tips – Tricky Teens – How to create a great relationship with your teen … without going crazy!, about the power of music to access our emotions and suggests...

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...

14 practical ways you can encourage and support teenagers from high risk environments

“Kids don’t need independence, they need interdependence. People are homeless because they have no functioning human relationships in their lives. Who in this society can live independently? All human beings want to belong somewhere.” (Pat O’Brien – founder of You Gotta Believe Program for older foster teens in New York) Have you worked with young people from high-risk environments or from families that are not functioning too well? Having been an educator for 40 years and been actively involved in youth mentoring programs, I have come across young people who had been physically and/or emotionally abused and was often in awe of their resiliency as they worked through life’s challenges. Yesterday I was researching for a book I am writing to encourage teachers and was reminded of the major challenges facing these educators when working with students from disadvantaged and/or high risk environments where there might be poverty, abuse, bullying and trauma. These students will probably experience different levels of toxic stress, depending on their personal experiences, which can disrupt development and cause learning problems. Their possible antisocial behavior can lead to social failure, which may produce a depressed mood. Rejection from peers, family or extended family problems and academic difficulties contribute to the onset of depression among boys in particular. Parenting behavior contributes significantly to a young person’s self-esteem. Non-compliance and anti-social behavior are related to low self-esteem. 14 practical ways to support and encourage teenagers from high-risk environments Volunteer adults working with young people must always remember that they cannot and should not try and fix families or rescue teenagers. The task will be tough and challenging, requiring...

Teenagers and high anxiety – do you know what is going on?

While I was walking along the beach this morning, I was mindful of the different shapes and sizes of footprints of others who had gone ahead of me. I reflected on the fact that the choices we make will heavily impact our footprints on the sands of time. I recalled walking around the school a while ago and stumbling into a conversation between two final year students. “I only had four hours sleep,” said an animated Jess, “and this is my fourth cup of coffee!” “Make sure you have nine hours sleep a night throughout the next week,” I interjected. “Your brain needs time to consolidate your learning and to discard what you don’t need to remember.” “You won’t be able to remember anything if you don’t get your sleep,” level-headed Rory added. “I have so much to learn!” Jess, looking startled at my suggestion, said. “How have you done through the Semester?” I asked. “Have you been working consistently?” Jess nodded. “Then you will be fine,” I reassured her,” but you need your sleep!” Jess was clearly on a caffeine high at the time, a bubbly personality, yet unable to hide the anxiety. I wondered if she was being placed under pressure to perform by her parents or by her peers. “At least you have a good sense of humor,” I smiled. “Sense of humor?” Jess looked puzzled and smiled. “That is not going to help me pass my exam.” As I listened to comments like those, I began to appreciate more and more how important it is for parents, students and teachers to work together to ensure...

8 Tips to help you develop meaningful mentoring relationships with Teenagers

When you were a teenager, did you ever come across an adult who crushed your dreams? How did you react? Fortunately, all the people who nurtured me as a young person encouraged me to chase my dreams. I shall forever be grateful to so many or that. “Cindy wanted to be a Paramedic, but I crushed her dream and told her to do nursing,” Cindy’s mum shared with me. “And now Gemma wants to go into law or something like that and  I am trying to get her to do nursing. I crushed Cindy’s dream and now I am crushing Gemma’s dream. You know, I think she could be a great teacher!” I found it challenging to have this conversation with Cindy and Gemma’s mum. “Never crush a dream,” I said. “No wonder Gemma is not sure what she wants to do with her life.” Anyone working with young people will have heard many stories like this. What we should be doing is encouraging these teenagers to chase their dreams. The dreams will reveal a passion and, once that passion is identified, it is so much easier for teenagers to set realistic and achievable goals and feel that their lives have purpose and meaning. This underlines the importance of sowing the seeds of the Spirit of Mentoring when we are working with young people especially, although there are some common threads that will cross all mentoring relationships. 8 Tips to develop meaningful relationships with Teenagers My research over the years has led me to put together these 8 tips to develop meaningful relationships with teenagers journeying through the adolescent...

3 Key Tips for you to encourage teenagers to use time wisely

How many times do you stop each week and wonder where time has disappeared to? Or mope about saying, “I don’t have enough time,” or “I am too busy!” or words to that effect? Jason once told me that one of his problems was that he did not finish his assessments on time. This was partly because he worked better in subjects he enjoyed rather than those he either found irrelevant or boring and partly because he clearly needed guidance with regard to organizing his schedule and managing his time more effectively. Our conversation ended up exploring hours of sleep (minimum of nine hours every night are needed), his personal goals and a breakdown of how he travels through each and every day of the week. I stressed to him, by way of encouragement, that he needed a schedule that allowed him social time to be with his peers or time simply to relax – very important in the life of a teenager. Promoting the spirit of mentoring involves guiding young people on how to plan their days and weeks, as well as encouraging them to identify different qualities of time and to adapt their behavior to suit each one. 3 Key Tips for encouraging teenagers to use time wisely Jason and I looked at the following three qualities of time: 1. During peak performance hours the brain is functioning at maximum level. Teenagers can focus on the academic areas that require a high level of concentration. For example, they might revise for a test or exam, or work through a tough problem-solving task. 2. Certain times are creative....

How you can show teenagers that quitting is a choice

How many times did you quit as a teenager? What were the reasons for that choice? I have spent time in recent weeks thinking of times when I might have quit on something, especially as a teenager, and regretted it. I was an active sportsman and I distinctly remember quitting on trying to achieve a top place in a 1500 meter race during our School Athletics Day. I did not want to train and represent the School in another big Athletics meet. I was playing two other sports at the time and did not feel I could manage another. Funny, though, how I remember this so vividly over 40 years later. When I am out jogging in the morning, I replay those moments. Even though I could justify my decision, there is definitely a regret that I did not push myself to the limit in that race. I quit on school work from time to time. This was often because I either found the work boring or could not see the relevance of studying a particular subject and, therefore, was unmotivated to learn. Then I became a teacher and could share many stories with young people, from my personal experiences, how NOT to behave. What has all this to do with the spirit of mentoring? Well, I guess I was making choices at a young age, some of which were poor and others did not matter too much. With my academic studies I sometimes have regrets that I never actually pushed myself, so I have no idea how competent I really am. In my first year at University, I...

A Teenager’s 6 Lessons to become the best she could be

How many times, as a teenager, did you feel alone and battling the world? Angie (16) was battling with a serious personal issue. She was a boarder at the school. One afternoon she popped in to see me in my office. Students knew that, if my door was open, they could feel free to come in and chat. I was the School Principal at the time. Angie started talking in fairly general ways about school, life, her favorite subjects, things she enjoyed doing and so on. I listened with interest. After a while she shared that she was not looking forward to returning home during the school holidays. Her father was disabled as a result of a work accident. He had been left crippled and was confined to a wheelchair. Angie said that he was abusive towards her and had a violent temper. From the way she talked, the abuse was verbal and nothing else – still, tough for a teenager, whose brain is still developing and prone to emotional outbursts, to contend with. We talked about the different options open to Angie, one of which was to apply for a United World College Scholarship. This was a Scholarship that would cover her education and boarding for the final two years of her education journey.  She would study for the International Baccalaureate. If successful, she would be able to approach almost any university for entrance to further study. Winning such a scholarship would reduce the time she would have to spend at home and that meant less time possibly being abused by her father. During the following week I...