How challenging is life for teenagers today? How do they cope with an increasingly changing global community? How many of their relationships have been either positively or negatively impacted by the pandemic during the past two years? And now there is the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

I love sitting on the deck of our home, as there is always a flurry of bird life arriving at our feeders, or visits from the New Zealand Tui (see photo) to the drinking bowl a couple of meters from my seat. Then a Blackbird will appear for a thorough wash in the birdbath. I sense that these visitors feel safe and secure in their familiar surroundings, yet they are alert in case a neighboring cat is on the prowl!

A couple of weeks ago we moved to a Retirement Village. A change of environment, a new season and possibly time to step back from blogs, social media mentoring posts to encourage anyone working with youth. A new season to enjoy my daily beach walks.

The pandemic, the lockdowns, and the Russian invasion of the Ukraine have added more challenges to the world of youth mentoring which I believe will become increasingly important in the next decade and beyond.

I look to the future with a spirit of HOPE and wonder, on occasions, how mentors approach the subject of vaccinations with teenage youth who might experience severe peer pressure to have the vaccination even when they and their parents might not wish to have the jab? Challenging conversations. I remain saddened that GPs are not allowed to prescribe proven medication to treat this virus and the variants, while allowing those who want vaccinations and boosters to have these. I have read no mentoring articles on this topic yet. My history teaching brain tells me that there is more going on than meets the eye of the average citizen. How do we discuss the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the global community’s reaction to it, the threats of nuclear war, the ongoing refugee issues … Let’s not digress from the purpose of this blog, though.

7 Key Mentoring Life Lessons

As I have spent time reflecting on my personal mentoring experiences – over fifty years all in all – I thought of seven key mentoring life lessons (including mentoring qualities) which create a HOPEFUL and authentic mentor and which can be a source of inspiration or encouragement as we face the unknown challenges of 2022.

  1. Humility: how important it is for mentors to continually remind themselves that the mentoring journey requires humility and honesty at all times. The focus of the relationship is always on the mentee and their needs, their goals and their lives. Great mentors regard mentoring a young person as an honor and a privilege. Once you connect with your mentee, you could embark on one of the most satisfying relationships in your life, a non-judgmental cheerleader.
  2. Organized: effective mentoring includes respectfully guiding youth to become better organized as they chase their dreams. Management of time discussions are important, with a focus on living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Coaching goal setting and the development of innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial skills becomes increasingly important in our post-pandemic global community.
  3. Persevere: the mentor should never quit on their mentee, tempting though this might be on occasions, and continually explores different ways to encourage their mentee to reach their potential. Mentors speak to the potential mentees might not see, reach out a helping hand when they stumble and fall, and place them back on the ‘dream path’ with a gentle pat on the back and a reminder not to quit. Life-changing events could occur and the development of resiliency is enhanced as mentees master the art of self-learning with the support of a trusted adult..
  4. Empathy: the effective mentor does their best to walk in their mentee’s shoes. They try hard to understand how their mentee might be feeling. The mentor models empathy and guides and coaches their mentee how to express empathy in their relationships with family, friends and other members of the community. Create a supportive relationship in which mentees feel cared for, valued, affirmed and encouraged.
  5. Fun-loving: youth tend to have a wonderful sense of humor, so mentors should make sure they experience many fun activities and laugh lots. Coach a young person not to take life too seriously and how to laugh at themselves. These are two powerful life lessons a mentee can remember from a mentoring relationship.
  6. Unity: promote a sense of unity in your mentee’s life and explore ways of achieving this – family unity, the importance of teamwork, learning how to positively resolve conflicts, and building community. Coach your mentee how to reflect and review their situation by looking for the positive and affirming opportunities, while learning from mistakes, and understanding that failure is part of the lifelong learning experience. These are examples of transformational mentoring which empowers youth to be accountable for the choices they make.
  7. Listen: without doubt, one of the most important qualities of a great mentor is to be an effective listener; to show a young person that their opinions and ideas are valued and matter, and to listen with an open, non-judgmental attitude. Continue to develop the skill of repeating in your own words something your mentee has shared with you, a great sign to your mentee that you are genuinely listening and seeking an understanding of what is being shared with you.

The Post-Pandemic Narrative

The key lesson from the pandemic and lockdowns must be how much youth value face-to-face relationships with their peers, teachers, coaches and mentors.

Schools have a wonderful opportunity to develop peer mentoring programs and incorporate vertical tutoring systems within a holistic authentic education experience. There could not be a more appropriate time to incorporate such thinking than during the early months of 2022, although it will take some time to prepare a school for a Vertical Tutoring System. Schools can start sowing the seeds by training Peer Mentors.

Never quit on youth

I have captured most of my thoughts and experiences in a variety of books which have been published during the past fifteen years and which you can read about on my website. Some of these appear on the page of this blog. The mentoring framework which I developed during a forty-plus years experience is best read in the latest user-friendly publication released a couple of months ago: CHOICES: Encouraging Youth to Achieve Greatness.

As 2022 gets under way, always promote the spirit of mentoring, build many meaningful relationships with youth, and sow plenty of HOPEFUL thoughts and messages as you encourage young people to reach their potential.

May you look back on this year with many cherished memories of how you built meaningful relationships with young people.