How much do you remember about your final year at school?
Perhaps you did not enjoy school life for any number of reasons, so you do not have great memories.
Or, like me, your final year at school is filled with cherished memories of dreams fulfilled, goals accomplished, memorable friendship moments and much more.
Spare a thought for 2020 school leavers whose hopes and dreams might have been shattered by the Covid pandemic and the impact of lockdowns on their lives. Most of these young people will value an empathetic mentor to help them unpack their often confused emotions, thoughts and feelings, and then offer non-judgmental support and guidance as they reset goals for the months ahead.
Will you be that one caring adult in that young person’s life?
I have reflected a great deal about how many of our youth will be feeling. Possibly there will be a mixture of disappointment, anxiety, sadness at opportunities lost, a lack of self-confidence, or moments of self-pity, anger and frustration. Maybe they will feel overwhelmed with all that has happened this year, or keen to put a disruptive year behind them and move on to the next season of their lives?
Most will have begun their final year with excitement and apprehension – knowing they would be leaving school in a few months – and the opportunity to fulfill their hopes and dreams. Now they think about opportunities missed because of the pandemic. Some examples:
- a key role in a school musical or drama production;
- selection for a top team;
- an opportunity to participate in an outreach trip to help disadvantaged people, or another special school tour or camp;
- involvement in a cultural activity for which they had been training or preparing;
- an opportunity to attain some academic award or awards, or a prestigious scholarship opportunity;
- a leadership opportunity;
- more time to do things with their peers, which included their final Formal, or Prizegiving, or Speech Day, or Celebration of Achievement, perhaps even a special function specifically for the leavers.
The list is endless, yet how do we work through these situations or think about ways to encourage possibly disillusioned youth?
Connect youth to new opportunities
A recent article by Ariel Erwin in The CHRONICLE of Evidence-based Mentoring caught my eye. Ariel shared a summary of a new study highlighting the mentors’ role in connecting mentees to new opportunities: Connecting Youth: The Role of Mentoring Approach. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Ariel highlighted some notes of interest which included:
- Although formal mentoring strives to develop and strengthen mentor – mentee relationships beyond formal mentorships, there’s still a lack of research that focuses on how mentors can help increase their mentees’ connectedness.
- This study examines how mentors approach their mentees and how the adults in their mentees’ lives influence various youth connection outcomes (i.e. parent-child relationship quality, natural mentors, help-seeking, and engagement in extracurricular activities) in community-based mentoring programs.
- Findings indicate that having a close relationship with a mentor, who actively connects their mentees with other people or programs from their communities, can promote help-seeking, increase extracurricular activity engagement, and strengthen parent-child relationships.
- While having a close relationship with a mentor is beneficial and important, it doesn’t guarantee youth connection outcomes outside the mentorship. Mentors’ active efforts to increase their mentees’ social networks, on the other hand, may have a stronger influence on these outcomes.
The power of mentoring
This is an interesting article which reminded me how successful the GR8 Mates school-based youth mentoring program I facilitated in three Australian schools actually was, as much of the focus was on establishing the community connections Ervin writes about.
Many of the mentees were successfully linked to a variety of people in their community. Indeed, some of these mentees also remained in touch with their mentors for years after the program had formally ended. Young lives were transformed, mentors lives were enriched and, in many cases, relationships between children and parents were strengthened.
The two key reasons for the success of mentoring programs like GR8 Mates are:
- The appropriate training and screening of volunteer adult mentors.
- Ongoing training which takes a variety of forms: regular email words of encouragement; group meetings with mentors to share experiences; regular contact between the program facilitator, individual mentors and the school, thus creating a strong network of support around a vulnerable young person seeking meaning and purpose in their lives.
Although the evidence-based research the writers of the study mentioned above is not apparent, my recently published book, Mentoring Minutes: Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Guiding Youth, is a treasure trove of stories and examples of the power of community mentoring.
Lives of meaning and purpose
As I mentioned earlier, our young people leaving school with mixed emotions will probably value a non-judgmental cheerleader moving alongside them for an important season as they transition from school to life beyond school.
Someone to empathize with their situation, help them set goals, discuss their fears and anxieties, celebrate the small and great achievements, and just be the consistent presence in their life for a while.
One possible reason for the lack of research focusing on how mentors can help increase their mentees’ connectedness, could simply be because every mentoring relationships is different and moves at a different pace. There are no quick-fix solutions available. It takes time to build a meaningful relationship with a young person whose brain is in a critical stage of development.
However, once that relationship is thriving, in most cases youth discover the meaning and purpose of their lives, and also appreciate how their ideas and opinions are valued by their mentor who consistently expresses unconditional care within a fun relationship. Then the young person feels ready to embark on an exciting self-learning and self-discovery journey.
This is the spirit of mentoring.
Will you be that one caring adult in the life of a kid?
FREE EBOOK: The Spirit of Mentoring series. Grab your FREE copy of EBOOK 1 today.
This Spirit of Mentoring series includes a number of free EBooks which will be published by the end of 2021, as I collate all my research and other resources. There are hundreds of tips and strategies to help mentors create positive and meaningful relationships with their mentees and the promise of more to come. You will not be bombarded with any other follow-up emails asking you to purchase other resources – that’s a promise. Another treasure trove of helpful resources collated from the opinions, ideas and research of mentoring experts, together with my mentoring, teaching and coaching experiences over the past forty years. Please pass on these resources to anyone working with youth. As already mentioned, the resources will be available until the end of 2021.