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.

Secrets to Inspire you to encourage teenagers to become the best they can be

Have you ever felt like quitting on your teenage child or a young person you have been working with? I certainly have, though my passion to encourage teenagers to become the best they can be has led me to try ANYTHING to encourage them to become the best they can be. I hope that Jacky’s true story will serve as an encouragement to you and you might be motivated by some of the secrets I am sharing in this journey I undertook with her.Jacky (not her real name) was a young girl I mentored a few years ago. She had a volatile temper, which students knew and many were the times her peers pushed that anger button to get a reaction.  And, when she reacted, the language was vile, a fairly sure sign of a young girl lacking in self-confidence. Underneath this angry and tough exterior though, I was quick to discover, was a wonderfully caring individual who would make sacrifices for others and expect nothing in return. An example of this was the way she purchased a snack for a peer she did not know well who had left their money at home and was attending an event at the place where Jacky did casual work. Jacky refused point blank to see a Counsellor, was absolutely shocking at her management of time, did not believe in setting goals because she had convinced herself she would never achieve them and was a great procrastinator! I was approached by a colleague and asked if I would have a chat to her, as the situation was becoming serious, her ant-social behaviour...

A tribute to my Mentor

Have you personally thanked your mentor or mentors for the encouragement and support they gave you, for investing time in your life? That’s the question I ask at the end of an activity when I train volunteer adult mentors before they embark on the unknown mentoring journey with a teenager. It’s a question that led me to contact Dave many years ago to thank him for being the wise guide on the side, my mentor, during some of the most formative years of my life. His reaction surprised me.Let me explain. Dave was a Cricket Coach of mine for a while and then taught me History for the final two years of my school career, during which time my sporting interests took priority over my academic endeavors. I was getting away with the minimum amount of work and hoping to get by. At some point early in my final year, Dave walked past me one day at school and simply said, “Robin, if you don’t do some work, you’ll fail.” I was a Student Leader at the time, expected to be a role model to the younger students. I smiled, felt embarrassed and rather sheepishly responded, “Yes, sir.” That one sentence spoken into my life by someone I respected, and was also a little afraid of, became a turning point in my academic journey. Not only did I set out to prove Dave wrong, but I had also heard his message loud and clear and knuckled down to some serious work, developing more effective planning and organisation, as well as management of my time. I passed at the end...

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....

10 Life Lessons to encourage you from my Cancer journey

Do you know anyone who has been struck down with Cancer? Anyone who might be on that journey at the moment? A young person needing encouragement? I was struck down with cancer at the age of nine and underwent some radiation treatment (2.5 times the adult dose), followed by significant major surgery during the next couple of years and then again when I was 18. My parents were told that I probably had two years to live and, during these two years, my mother died suddenly. Thankfully, I survived the Cancer and now, 50 years later, reflecting on my life journey to date, I happily share 10 Life Lessons that I have learnt, through trial and error, highs and lows, over the years and which helped me through challenging adolescent years as I came to terms with my disfigurement and responded to it. I share these experiences with teenagers I mentor, encouraging them to keep on keeping on through the confusing adolescent years, especially when the odds are stacked against them. Following these key tips has taught me the importance of living a positive life journey filled with HOPE, experiencing unconditional love and care from those closest to me, whilst also feeling valued and, ultimately, leading a life of meaning and purpose with a strong sense of serving others. Anyone who has suffered from Cancer will know the challenges one experiences overcoming times of adversity and enjoying success. Here’s what my life experiences have taught me: Attitude – never forget that you choose your attitude and how you respond to all that life throws at you. The choices you...

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...

Why teenagers need sleep!

Do you have a teenage child? Are you mentoring a teenager? How many hours sleep does that young person have EVERY night? Rule of thumb is that adolescents require 9 hours sleep every night during these critical years of growth and while the brain is developing.I remain continually puzzled that so many teenagers and their parents seem reluctant to ensure that these young people have a minimum of 9 hours sleep every night. More and more research points to the necessity of this, as puberty is kicking in and the brain is at an important stage of its developmental journey. The brain needs sleep to dispose of unimportant information, lay down new learning and to process new information. It needs sleep to regulate emotions. Basically, the brain needs sleep to grow, change and re-energise so it can function properly during the following day. Indeed, scientists have learnt that what our brain learns during the day is CONSOLIDATED during sleep. Author and brain researcher, Nicola Morgan, says there is more and more evidence now suggesting that our sleeping brains practise the things we do while we are awake. She describes how REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep), during which time our eyelids are flattering, happens at certain stages during the sleep cycle, particularly when we are experiencing deep sleep and dreaming. Research is now suggesting that REM sleep is particularly important for memory and learning. During adolescence changes to the brain do affect the biological clock, a cluster of neurons that sends signals throughout the body and control fundamentally all of the internal operations, one of which is sleep.  MELATONIN, the...

The power of investing time with young people

How do we motivate and inspire the millions of young people who are drifting aimlessly to become the best they can be? How do we move alongside young people trying to find their way through the confusing adolescent years? How do we galvanize communities to develop a global youth mentoring crusade?These are some of the questions I am regularly asking myself, though I have no clear answers, other than knowing that something has to happen to create a global movement that sees the skills, knowledge and life experience of millions of potential volunteer adult mentors being shared with young people often desperate to have a significant adult in their lives to guide them, be a non-judgmental Cheerleader and encourager. Reflecting on mentoring programs I have been involved with, I recall conversations with mentors who had expressed disappointment that their mentees might not have completed a relatively easy task they agreed to see completed when they last met. During the training of volunteer adolescent mentors, which I link to my user-friendly book, The Spirit of Mentoring – A manual for adult volunteers,  which has hundreds of tips for mentors to consider during the mentoring journey, I suggest to mentors that they have no expectations of their mentees when they begin the mentoring journey. Then they will not be disappointed. Most young people entering a mentoring program are lacking self-confidence and genuinely believe they can’t achieve much with their lives. This might be because of the messages they might be receiving from parents, peers and teachers. Perhaps it is because they might have a sibling who appears to do well at school,...

Early lessons learnt or reinforced in setting up a youth mentoring program

Are you involved in setting up a youth mentoring program? Are there days you feel overwhelmed? I wrote down some thoughts when I was setting up from scratch the Gr8 Mates school-based youth mentoring program.There were ongoing lessons being learnt on the journey. What follows are some of the lessons I learnt: Make sure the program is internationally credible, which requires a Policies and Procedures Manual. There are some good examples of these on internationally credible youth mentoring websites. Develop a budget and have a plan as to how the program will roll out. Gr8 Mates had a possible 5 year budget plan which was continually being revised as the program was being developed. It added credibility to the program when approaching potential donors. Develop the program slowly. Don’t try to make it too big too fast. A quality program will take time to develop. I rewrote some of the Policies and Procedures Manual within the first three to six months of launching the program. Think about evaluation all the time. I recorded ‘every’ inquiry about the program and also knew how most of the people contacting me had heard about the program. I evaluated the mentor training, the mentee training and the mentor/mentee matching session. Keep building partnerships and networks within the local and wider community eg, businesses; University of the 3rd Age; faith institutions; Sport Clubs and so on.. Make the training free wherever possible – after all, the mentors are volunteering their time. The host school contributed a small amount for each participating student and this covered most of the mentor’s training accreditation fee. We covered...

6 aspects of youth mentoring that make it so needed in our global community

Do you believe that young people benefit from having non-judgmental Cheerleaders in their adolescent lives? Can you remember having any significant, non-parent, people guiding you through those challenging and confusing teenage 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”. 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 with poverty and makes them comprehensible by focusing on the needs of a single young person. One group states, “Maybe you can’t change the world, but you can make a difference in the future of at least one young person.” In this way, mentoring personalizes responsibility and allows the individual to act. Mentoring is direct. Mentoring simultaneously satisfies a sense of urgency and a desire to cut through red tape to help youth directly. It doesn’t require faith in intermediary institutions, but enables individuals to draw on their own resources. Mentoring is highly sympathetic. Being dubbed a mentor is neither neutral nor objective, like tutor or volunteer. It is an honour that flatters the volunteer. Mentoring is legitimate. It...

How will Artificial Intelligence impact young lives?

How do you think Artificial Intelligence will impact your life? How do you think Artificial Intelligence will impact your relationships? These are interesting questions to discuss with an adolescent mentee, especially at a time when we are continually being told that the digital age will see many current jobs becoming obsolete during the next few years. A significant contribution a volunteer adult mentor can make to the life of an adolescent mentee is to build a web of protective factors or characteristics around the young person that will reduce the negative impact of stressful situations and problems, thus fostering resiliency.Some ways a mentor can do this would include the following six strategies which, when combined, are likely to see the development of positive self-concepts, connection to school, improved academic results, respect for authority and a more resilient young person. I can vouch for this from my mentoring, teaching and coaching experiences. Provide unconditional caring, support and encouragement. Let mentees hear the message “You matter!” Catch them being good and acknowledge their efforts. Increase bonding. Strengthen the connections between mentees and pos­itive adults and peers; and between mentees and any positive social activity (eg, sports, art, music, writing, dance, community service, reading or learn­ing). Mentees with strong, positive bonds are less likely to be involved in high risk behaviours than those without such bonds. Set clear, consistent boundaries. Mentees need clear and consistent rules or boundaries (eg, family rules and norms, school policies and procedures, communi­ty laws and norms) within which they are encouraged to become the best they can be. These must be clearly spelt out and consistent­ly enforced....