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 nurture and encourage teenagers to become mentally strong

How much support did you have around you when you were a teenager? What did that scaffolding look like, feel like and sound like? Who were the people who provided that scaffolding? What qualities or characteristics did they display in their relationship with you? Perhaps you need some positive signs to look out for? While working in my home office a while ago, I looked out to see a painter – probably in his 30s – sitting on the scaffolding opposite our apartment taking a selfie! A quick adjustment of the T-shirt, fingers repositioning the hair, seated upright – mobile phone at the ready, a smile and click! Great selfie which was quickly sent to a friend, a loved one? Four storeys up. Beautiful sea view with that perfect autumn day framed by a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. The scaffolding was secure, strong, supportive, enabling this special moment in a painter’s day to occur. He felt safe. That got me thinking about the signs of a mentally strong teenager and the scaffolding that supports him/her so that he/she would always feel safe and secure. I have spent many months collating years and years of adolescent research and, more recently, linking this research to the latest adolescent neuroscience research. This research has reiterated how important it is for youth to have significant adults as their non-judgmental Cheerleaders to walk alongside them during a critically important season of their lives while their brains are developing. 15 signs of mentally strong teenagers As these meaningful relationships are developed and the significant adult takes on an encouraging and nurturing role, here are 15...

Do you have a proven idea to motivate all teenagers to share with the world?

Do you have a proven idea to inspire and motivate teenagers to share with the world? Better still, do you think your idea will make a positive difference in your global community? Do you have any idea how to share your idea with the global community? I have a good idea – which has taken me over 40 years of life experiences to develop – to share with the world’s teenagers which I know will transform their lives and give them hope and a sense of purpose, encouraging them to use their unique gifts and talents to create a happier, more united global community. Questions, questions and more questions. I find myself asking the questions above on many occasions. I am not a businessman and struggle to market anything, so am absolutely no use at working in these areas. I shared these thoughts a short while ago and decided to revisit them. What I can do is encourage others. I can receive great satisfaction when I choose to reach out to someone in need of encouragement and offer to walk alongside them for a season of their lives. I know that is my gifting and is one of the reasons I chose to become a teacher. Now, as I move into my retirement years, I find myself wondering how I can share all my vast resources of experience, knowledge and ideas with others to encourage the next generation to fulfill their God-given potential. From a young age, I enjoyed being a team player. My satisfaction comes from working within a team – I am comfortable facilitating team discussions –...

10 Life Lessons from my Cancer journey to encourage you

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? Someone, especially a teenager, struggling to adapt to the results of suffering from Cancer or some other serious illness? 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 or another life-threatening illness, will know the challenges one experiences overcoming times of adversity and enjoying success. Here’s what my life experiences have taught me:...

10 proven powerful mentoring tips for your journey with Teenagers

When you think about any adult who motivated and inspired you as a teenager, what do you remember about them? Why did they have such a positive impact on your life? Dave was one of my teachers, also my Cricket coach at one point and later my mentor who guided the development of my teaching skills. He was tough, uncompromising at times, set and expected nothing but the best effort, yet behind the tough exterior was a compassionate and caring man, a champion of the underdog. Our friendship lasted for over 40 years, at which point Dave succumbed to Cancer. Research shows that mentoring journeys lasting more than 12 months result in most mentees enjoying improved relationships with parents; better connections with school; less of an inclination to experiment with drugs, alcohol and other antisocial behaviors; enjoying greater levels of self-worth, better social skills and improved academic results. Mentoring involves making an emotional investment in a mentee’s life; building trust and encouraging; making a positive impact on a young life often experiencing confusion and self-doubt. 10 proven mentoring tips I find it difficult to determine what are the most important tips to offer a volunteer adult mentor, as so much will depend on the circumstances confronting both the mentor and the young person he or she is moving alongside. Here are 10 positive, proven and powerful tips to encourage and guide any mentors working with teenagers. When applied you will see the positive impact you are having on a young life. Encourage your mentees to develop a personal photograph of themselves in the future and to hold on to...

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...

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...