Looking for some quick tips and ideas to encourage your work with teenagers – as a teacher, coach, parent, grandparent, or youth worker? Perhaps you feel you would like more training, or a refresher course, to prepare you for a mentoring role, though struggle to free up the time?

My book: Mentoring Minutes: Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Working with Youth is a user-friendly book containing 260 daily messages – five for each week of the year – covering many topics: self-image, communication, positively resolving conflicts, resiliency, goal setting and more. I have woven true mentoring stories throughout the book to encourage anyone working with young people never to quit on them.

Why the book?

My youth mentoring experiences over the years have shown me how important ongoing encouragement and training of volunteer mentors is. This user-friendly book, with a foreword by youth mentoring global expert, Dr. Susan Weinberger, aims to plug that gap. Dr. Susan Weinberger writes:

Mentoring Minutes in some respects has become an almost self-help book for mentors. In this regard, it is a unique and revolutionary approach. In the book, Cox offers an incredibly valuable resource for mentors as they celebrate the growth and achievements of their mentees. The daily messages become a calendar of ongoing training, advice, encouragement, and hope. Each message instructs mentors on mentees’ growth, development, feelings and needs and what they are experiencing as they go through the journey of life. Mentors are equipped with many tips and strategies to help mentees achieve their goals.

Mentoring Minutes is a collation of years of research, as well as my experiences working with, and coaching over 1,000 adolescents (and teachers)—in a variety of face-to-face relationships—and training over 800 volunteer adult mentors from a variety of professions. Mentoring Minutes is linked to the most recent adolescent brain research.

My research of youth mentoring programs in a number of countries revealed that a major challenge of many programs was how to offer regular and ongoing training and support to their mentors, with the purpose of building meaningful developmental relationships with their mentees. I searched bookstores and other online resources and did not find anything to meet that specific need—and it is a need, highlighted in feedback I have received from mentors.

So, I decided to write this book, condense, update, convert the content of the 260 free brief podcasts I have recorded into a user-friendly weekly reference of messages to fill this gap, and be an encouragement to mentors, and anyone else working with youth.

Here is an example of one daily message.

Tips to nurture resilient mentees

A key role of an effective volunteer adult mentor is to develop resilient mentees. How can you do this?

Here are a few ideas and strategies that I have used effectively for many years. The key point is that they are non-threatening, motivating and even, in some instances, inspiring.

  • Focus on the development of a caring, trusting relationship with your mentees, and not on saving them.
  • Have fun.
  • Have positive, high, realistic expectations for your mentees.
  • Never quit on your mentees.
  • Meet your mentees’ emotional safety needs by being available to talk. Sustain kindness, for example, with a touch on the shoulder, a smile, or a genuine greeting.
  • Get to know your mentees’ strengths, dreams, and gifts. Help them to develop the skills and resources to unlock these. You convey the message: You matter.
  • Be reliable and accessible, and turn up for the agreed meetings with your mentees.
  • Encourage your mentees to create positive peer groups—that is, small groups to help build a positive community.
  • Respect, take an interest in, actively listen to, and validate the feelings of a struggling mentee in a non-judgmental manner.
  • Encourage your mentees to involve themselves in extracurricular activities, such as art, music, cultural activities, community projects, or service activities in or out of school.

Mentoring tip: Encourage, affirm, and cheer your mentee on to greater heights.

A true mentoring story – Mentoring moments

At the end of each week a true brief mentoring story – Mentoring moments – is included to give credibility to the content of the book.

“Mentoring moments” provide practical examples of how ordinary people, like me, are impacted by the power of the spirit of mentoring. Brief vignettes of my personal experiences as a mentor and mentee are woven through these “Mentoring moments”.

Unlike many young people, I was fortunate to have some significant adults move quickly alongside me at crucial times of my childhood, after I had major cancer surgery as a young boy, followed soon after by the sudden death of my mother. Later, as I gained in self-confidence, I approached adults I respected for encouragement and support. In reality they became my mentors, and helped shape, refine, coach, and guide me to chase my dreams and fulfill my potential.

All these mentors and coaches during my youth had been trained to work with youth. Most would have attended professional development workshops to keep them informed of youth-related research. In some ways, they give credence to Professor Jean Rhodes’ belief that: “Rather than deliver interventions, mentors in nonspecific programs should be trained to support their mentee’s engagement in targeted, evidence-based interventions.”

These vignettes describe how my mentors sowed and nurtured the spirit of mentoring as they positively influenced different seasons of my life, and then how I have passed that mentoring baton on to others as best as I can. All the stories are true. The names of my mentors are their real names, though I have changed the names of those I have mentored to protect their privacy. Their actual words are shared, as examples of how to sow the seeds of the spirit of mentoring in the lives of those with whom we interact. Mentoring keeps me humble, and always open to new teaching.

I also share feedback from adolescent mentees, adolescent peer mentors, and volunteer adult mentors in these Mentoring moments pages to highlight the power of mentoring our youth, and to encourage anyone with an interest in mentoring to take on an unforgettable challenge.

Jacob’s story

Here is an example of a Mentoring moment from the book:

Fourteen-year-old Jacob was struggling to find his way. His parents had divorced and both had married new partners. Jacob was lost and lonely in a boarding house.

Twenty years later he contacted me to thank me for moving alongside him. This is Jacob’s story:

Thought I would drop you a line and hear how you are. I often think of you and how you voluntarily took me under your wing, so to speak during my time at [the school], encouraging and guiding me through the often irrational and rudderless years of one’s teens! One incident sprang to mind. During my grade seven year, when I was opening and locking the club room, for which you awarded me a generous portion of service points (many thanks!!), you recommended I read Eric Liddle’s biography [the story on which the film, Chariots of Fire was based]. In retrospect the story had a profound effect on my psyche … I am extremely grateful for all you did for me: all those hours when you threw to me in the cricket nets, and I would sometimes manage to straight bat a ball out of the front, and off you would jog to fetch it. I would like you to know that your actions have had a positive, material effect on my life, both in a faith and sporting sense. Although I only played a handful of games for the university first cricket team, I think I achieved my potential on the [other sport as a provincial player] field, and you were a big motivation behind that.

Jacob’s story reminds mentors that the true impact of many mentoring relationships might only be known many years later, and after the mentee pauses to reflect on their life journey. This is a critical point many sponsors of youth mentoring programs fail to understand, as they expect a “quick-fix” solution to the challenges which youth face.

What the experts say about this unique and revolutionary approach to mentoring

“Mentoring Minutes is a wonderful book that will be enormously helpful to programs and mentors alike. Through engaging quotes and upbeat messages, mentoring expert Robin Cox has found a way to deliver just the right balance of research and inspiration.” (Professor Jean Rhodes)
“Cox’s book gives endless practical advice to mentors alongside grounded mentoring theory. He carefully balances the primacy to build trust with the new research recommending a more intentional approach. The week by week format helpfully mirrors the mentoring journey and gives hope to the young people Cox shows such a belief in.” (Matthew Button, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Zealand)
“This book is an amazing resource for anyone working with a young person in a mentoring role – both in and outside of programs. A lifetime’s worth of wisdom and insight has been collected and shared here. Robin has done a wonderful job of highlighting many of the intricacies of the art of mentoring and I hope this book encourages new mentors and fortifies those who are already supporting young people.” (Michael Garringer, MENTOR, The National Mentoring Partnership (USA))

The book is available on Amazon and Kindle, and I have some copies for distribution in New Zealand..