Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mentor A Teen: Change A Life for the Better

We set the time and date. Mike would walk to my house after school for science and math help. He and my son had become “scout-buddies” and it was clear that he was very bright and capable but needed extra support. When his Aunt approached me after a failed Science test, I was happy to help but still a bit nervous. What if he didn’t come?
Would his parents be supportive? Would he actually want my help?

What is a Mentor?

Mentoring wasn’t something I thought I would ever do. It sounded like something that career businessmen or childless couples did to find life-balance.  It didn’t seem to fit into my busy family schedule. But we were new to town and my social calendar was open. I began to think of what I could do and say to help? As I pulled together a plan, I began to wonder if my voice might indeed help him find himself?  I began to contemplate the importance of an encouraging voice in a teen’s life.

Mentoring is:

“an adult who, along with parents, provides young people with support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and constructive example. Mentors are good listeners, people who care, people who want to help young people bring out strengths that are already there.”
In Mike I saw a voracious appetite to read and an insatiable curiosity to learn. I saw parents that wanted what was best for their son but faced taxing life circumstances.  I saw a bright young man wanting someone to believe in him. He needed to know that the hope and talent he felt within could (with good direction) help him mark a pathway to a brighter future.

Why Mentor?

Mentoring is one of the ways that communities can bridge social economic gaps. When positive relationships are built upon moments of trust, everyone wins. The statistics are convincing:

                        Mentored teens are:
      • 46% less likely to use drugs
      • 27 % less likely to use alcohol at an early age
      • 53 % less likely to skip school
      • 33 % less likely to do gang violence
      • 59% more likely to get better grades
      • 73% more likely to raise their goals
      • 21 % more likely to finish school
      • 12 % more likely to attend college
      • More likely to grow up to be
      • strong and good citizens, employees and neighbors 
One of my greatest fears in youth mentoring was the time commitment.  I soon learned that as little as 2 hours a month was all that was needed to build encouragement and set goals. He needed to know that someone believed in him.  On a few visits he and my son played ball while I quizzed him. As his sense of accomplishment grew, I too enjoyed a sense of fulfillment that came from helping a younger person realize their potential. I know that I helped Mike, but I am not sure he realizes how much he helped me. 

Mentoring can be great for teens that are in difficult social-economic situations but it can also be great for single parenthood situations, bi-lingual families, or teens who have no siblings. Mentoring opens new horizons for youth by offering new perspectives, new skills, and new ideas about life possibilities. Mentoring is great for families, strengthens parents, and helps build strong citizens. 

A few good mentoring organizations and resources are: 

by Linda Shaw

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