Are there days when you wonder where your teenage child has come from? Or which side of the bed he or she climbed (or fell!) out of in the morning? Chances are they’re just being normal. Or, as a mentor, are there days when you wonder if you are achieving anything in your mentoring relationship?
With so much going on in those young lives and the brain still developing, sometimes we just need to remember to stay focused and keep on keeping on being the loving parents and supportive and encouraging mentors we are. Maybe you need some user-friendly tips to encourage you?
20 meaningful ways to stay connected to young people
So, here’s a summary of some research I did. 20 meaningful ways to stay connected to our young people, in no particular order, that overlap with many thoughts and ideas linked to the Spirit of Mentoring.
- We should spend time with our children, especially when we would rather be doing something else.
- Invest energy when we are exhausted; take family holidays together as much as possible. Remember, there are some key skills our children need in the 21st Century, which Schools might not be paying enough attention to: public speaking, management of time, relationship building skills, negotiation and resolving conflict skills. The mentoring relationship could enhance many of these.
- Bite our tongues when we want to lash out.
- Take a deep breath and count SLOWLY to 20 when we want to scream.
- Keep telling our children that we love them unconditionally and nothing will ever change that – be honest and authentic at all times.
- Tell our children that, although we may get frustrated, we will never give up on them.
- Swallow our pride and apologise to our children when we have messed up.
- Go out of our way to meet with their friends and their parents.
- Stay connected with our children’s school, perhaps even their place of work (where relevant).
- Have the courage to talk about difficult topics like sex, alcohol, drugs, anorexia, smoking and and other antisocial behavior.
- Deal with problems head on instead of denying they exist – preferably be pro-active, always courteous and respectful.
- Put a note of encouragement in their lunch box or school bag, even under their pillow or send a surprise text message.
- Openly share thoughts about our values, yet be non-judgmental, as our children will only start formulating their own value base when they are about 18, having watched how we and other adults live.
- Negotiate, set, then enforce boundaries, limits and curfews. Our children will not resist boundaries and limitations provided they are practical. Give your reasons, justify your actions, thoughts etc. Don’t forget the importance of 9 hours sleep every night – a fundamental rule the brain wants you to enforce! 🙂
- Stand firm on a family rule when it would be easier to give in.
- Show up at our children’s activities and celebrate their achievements, especially their efforts. Catch them doing good!
- Ask them about their favorite music, TV programs, YouTube clips etc. Try and understand their world – empathy.
- Journey with them when they experience failure so they keep learning from their mistakes. They need to hear that it’s okay to fail if they are giving of their best. Focus on EFFORT more than results.
- Listen! Listen! Listen with an open mind, as it shows profound respect and that we are making a genuine effort to understand them. Listen twice as much as you talk! Ensure we receive feedback ie, does my child understand what I have been talking about? Begin statements with ‘I’ not ‘You’. Get to the point and tell them the truth, sometimes appreciating the importance of being sensitive with what you are sharing. Don’t generalise eg, ‘You never clear the table’. Rather, ‘Looks like you forgot to clear the table’.
- Share a good laugh! Never forget to SMILE and include lots of fun moments in the day.
Feel free to add to the list and work hard at sowing messages of HOPE when we are communicating with our children.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.