Robin's Mentoring Matters Blog

Inspire youth to reach their potential

How to create beautiful memories for youth

Is there one specific positive moment from your youth that you will never forget? A special moment? A life-changing moment, perhaps? I have been caught up in writing this year. It is strange, as I have never regarded myself as being much of a writer, though clearly God has other ideas. All three books which will be published by the end of the year carry a theme of the ‘spirit of mentoring’ and they also aim to encourage people. So, I have thought deeply about all the people who have encouraged me over the years. And, in my youth, the moment that stands out for me was my last day at school. School finished each year with an Annual Prize giving celebratory event. I had the honor and privilege of being school captain during my final year at school and had enjoyed a memorable year. Creating memories The previous year I had discovered that as a young boy I had had cancer and was not guaranteed to live. I knew I had been seriously ill, but I never knew I had had ‘cancer’. Fortunately, thanks to the amazing skills of a wonderful team of doctors and nurses, as well as incredible support from my family, teachers and friends, I became a ‘survivor’. When I was appointed school captain, I determined that this would be the year I gave back to all those who had supported me on this journey. I set many goals and achieved them all and this included stepping out of my comfort zone and trying different activities, exploring things I might not normally have explored, and... read more

10 tips to nurture resilient youth (new book)

Have you ever wanted some quick tips and ideas to encourage your work with teenagers – as a teacher, coach, parent, grandparent, or youth worker? During the past couple of weeks I have been going through the final proof of my new book: Mentoring Minutes: Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Working with Youth. There are 260 daily messages – five 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. This blog 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... read more

12 points every adult working with youth can remember

How often, when you are chatting to teenagers and trying to understand them do you reflect on your adolescent journey? Can you remember any high and low points of your teenage years? Can you remember the significant people who impacted you either positively or negatively? Sometimes it helps our relationships with youth when we show empathy and try harder to understand how they might be feeling to help us understand why a seemingly crazy or irresponsible decision was made. We know that the brain is developing in crucial ways until the mid-twenties. All the developing brain research should assist our relationship building skills with youth. Psychologist David Walsh shared some thoughts about the key challenges facing adolescents and I have added another. 12 points every adult working with youth can remember As we move alongside youth, encourage them to become happy and positive people – despite major mood swings, which is normal – and work hard to speak to the potential you can see in them and which they often cannot see.  That is where your calm, reassuring presence is genuinely appreciated even if they do not communicate this to you – yet! Adolescents have to: figure out how to get sufficient sleep – a minimum of nine hours every night is highly recommended; handle sexually maturing bodies that give rise to strong urges which they can learn how to manage; try and figure out and manage volatile and powerful emotions; fit into a complex social network; deal with immense peer pressure – both positive and negative; deal with wildly changing moods; decide how they are going to respond... read more

How would you describe your IDEAL teacher?

Can you think of a teacher who had a positive impact on your life? Have you ever thought what your ideal teacher would be like? I have been thinking about this topic in recent days while writing a new book: The Barnabas Prayer – Becoming an encourager in your community. I wrote the first draft of this book during our COVID-19 lockdown, sent it to my publisher and, a couple of weeks later, was surprised to receive the offer of a publishing contract. Surprised? Well, who would have thought I would be offered three publishing contracts within twelve months? I am embraced in this big bubble called ‘humility’. What, you might justifiably ask, has this to do with my ideal teacher? Well, it has made me appreciate even more that most adults are parents, or teachers, or coaches, or mentors – in reality, a combination of these. In other words, whether we like it or not, we will either positively or negatively impact the young people with whom we interact. Eight positive signs of my ideal teacher They affirm life and further its potential, and always share messages of hope. They enter into real discussions with their students because, at heart, they are genuine and emotionally available. They set clear boundaries – negotiated with older students – for themselves and others. They embody values and virtues that others merely admire. They walk the talk. They always make sure their students feel safe and secure in their company. They look to identify their students’ strengths, name them and encourage these young people to use these strengths in positive ways to... read more

What is the most important life lesson you learnt from COVID-19?

What is the most important life lesson you learnt from COVID-19? Will you do things differently now? This might be a hard question to answer. Much will depend on your experiences to date. Lost a loved one during this time? Lost a job or business? School closed down for a while? Spent time in a lock down and isolation situation? Could not complete a course you wanted to finish off? Unable to travel, so lost an opportunity to pursue a dream or possible job opportunity? As I have followed the media, had to experience lock down and was unable to see my other family members, including my grandchildren, the most important lesson I have been reminded of again and again is how important relationships are – face to face relationships. And it has been interesting to listen to young people. All the majority of our youth wanted was to get back to school to be with their friends. How will the global community emerging from COVID-19 respond to this reality? More of the same? Seek to become a more compassionate, caring community? I am already reading many articles about online learning gaining momentum, shorter working weeks or more people working from home and so on. Yet, we have a chance to reimagine what our global community could be like. I have written elsewhere how I observed a Vertical Tutoring System transform a school and the time is surely right for schools to explore this system. It transforms school cultures in so many positive ways and there is a significant focus on how to build meaningful relationships. However, I digress.... read more

10 top motivators for employers of young adults

Can you remember the people who influenced you the most when you joined the work force? How has the work place today differed from when you entered it for the first time? How would you motivate and encourage a young adult joining your team in their first career move? These are interesting questions to consider. They are questions I have been reflecting upon as I think about how COVID-19 will impact economic development in the months ahead. Neuroscience research continually reminds us that the brains of youth are only fully developed when they are in their mid-twenties. This highlights how important it is for empathetic employers to guide and navigate new young employees entering the work force for the first time. Here is what I learned.Research I spent some time researching employer and employee relationships, exploring what social researchers say and reading general articles in which employers share their experiences working with youth. I saw over the years how the advent of technology seemed to change the mindset of young employees. In some cases I saw youth unafraid to be creative and innovative. In other situations I observed young people unable to empathize with others, severely lacking teamwork and often with questionable management of time skills. I saw others who took life so seriously, were unable to laugh at themselves, and whose perfectionist attitude led to heightened stress levels. And, I observed others who lacked a healthy and balanced lifestyle which had a negative effect on their output. 10 top motivators  Here are ten of the top motivators employers can reflect on as they employ today’s youth, always remembering... read more

Your teenager’s 10 life lessons to bounce back from COVID-19

When you were a teenager how did you bounce back from adversity? What form did this adversity take – rejection by friends? A family bereavement? Challenging family circumstances? Living in a high-risk environment? Failing an exam? Omitted from a team? The COVID-19 lockdown has helped me to focus on my new mentoring book due out later in the year with over 1000 tips, strategies and discussion topics to encourage anyone working with young people. I have had plenty of time to reflect on my own teenage years and how I dealt with cancer, the loss of my mother, changing family circumstances, peer relationships and all the challenges every teenager faces as they seek meaning and purpose in their lives. And, each time I reflect, I am drawn back to ten key life lessons which I have shared with hundreds of young people, especially those I have mentored. In almost every case I have observed extraordinary positive life journeys being developed before my eyes, as these young people embraced most, if not all the life lessons over a period of time. A unique time No teenager is likely to have experienced anything like COVID-19 in their lifetime, an event that will change how our global community thinks and operates. Already we are told that the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit will be rewarded in the coming months and years as the global economy recovers from this pandemic. We have so many wonderfully creative young people whose creativity is often squashed by narrow-thinking, dull, exam driven education systems. Time to free them up and encourage them to soar! Bounce back Well-known... read more

Your 13 Key Positive Qualities through COVID -19

Can you remember the relationships you had when you were an adolescent? Did you belong to a small clique or did you have a wide circle of friends? Do you think more deeply about what meaningful relationships are all about? Will you place your relationships at the front and center of your journey through the COVID -19 pandemic? We are living in ‘unprecedented times’. I hear this phrase every day at the moment, We move into a time of lock down. It will be tough, but I am fortunate, as I can still do my beautiful daily beach walk, and am now forced to finish my new mentoring book to meet the publisher’s end of April deadline. I won’t be able to link up with my daughter and her family and the grandchildren to enjoy lots of laughs. And, while writing this book – converting my 260 free podcasts into 312 daily messages – I have reflected on all the people who have impacted my life through expressing the spirit of mentoring. I have written tributes to some of these people in the new book. As I played plenty of sport in my youth, I tended to hang out with some of my team members in the different teams in which I participated, which led to a wider circle of superficial friendships, though I had one or two closer friends who remained friends for many years. My experiences also reminded me of a conversation I had with 16-year-old Gabby who was working through relationship issues. Gabby was keen to do well at school and was genuinely striving to fulfill... read more