15 Tips & Resources for Mentors of Youth


In my previous post I referred to part of a study by the Search Institute that collated the top 10 things teenagers want from adults in order to build meaningful relationships.

The post  raised the importance of teens developing strong relationships with adults who aren’t their parents, like neighbours, teachers, coaches, or youth group leaders etc.  Often these people play a mentoring role in the teenager’s life.  This can be initiated through a formal mentoring program, however most commonly it develops through circumstances in the teenagers life.

No matter how it happens the presence of a strong mentor is a valuable resource in the life of a developing teenager. So after giving you a list of what teens are looking for in mentors, I thought it might be useful (and fair) to provide some resources for those of you who are, or have the potential, to be in a mentoring relationship with teens.

10 Tips For Building a Mentoring Relationship

As I gave you a list of 10 requests from teenagers it seems like good symmetry to give you a list of 10 tips to help you in building your relationship.

This list is based a resource from the Youth Mentoring Network and gives some basic guidelines for building a mentoring relationship.

  1. Have realistic goals and expectations – focus on the teenager and their overall development. Your early efforts should just be on developing rapport.
  2. Have fun together – play games, go bowling, go to the movies, etc.
  3. Give the teen you’re mentoring a voice and choice in deciding on activities – it demonstrates your trust, and builds skills and confidence.
  4. Be Positive – be encouraging and offer concrete assistance.
  5. Let the teen you are mentoring have significant control over what the two of you talk about -and how you talk about it – don’t push, be sensitive and aware of different communication styles.
  6. Listen – ‘Just Listening’ will develop trust – not criticising or judging.
  7. Respect the trust the teenager places in you – show them that you understand and are committed to the relationship.
  8. Be a friend – don’t be a parent or authority figure.
  9. Remember YOU are responsible for building the relationship – take responsibility for making and maintaining contact and don’t expect too much feedback from the teenager.
  10. Remember that your relationship is with the teen and not the teen’s parents – keep your relationship with them cordial but distant. (This point is not always valid, especially if you are a friend of the family or a relative.  Make sure parents know who you are, at least enough to trust you.)

5 Must Do’s of Being a Mentor

Knowing how to relate and get along is a big part of being a mentor.  However choosing to play a significant role in a young person’s life comes with a degree of obligation and responsibilities.

Below is a list of 5 ethical principles that potential mentors need to consider.  (These are based on Rhodes, Spencer, & Liang’s adaptation of the APA code of practice, as cited in Research Quarterly, 2010).

1. Promote Welfare and Safety or the Young Person – Mentors should work to assist and benefit the teenager, or at the very least do no harm. It is the mentor’s primary responsibility to promote the welfare of their teen.

2. Trustworthy and Responsible– Mentor’s need to be committed and aware of the frequency of meetings required to enable the teenager to benefit from a relationship.

3. Act with Integrity– Mentor’s should avoid setting false expectations for the teenager. For example, in canceling meetings at the last minute may have damaging impact on a young person.

4. Promote Justice for the Teenager – Mentors must be provided the training to be sensitive and aware of their own inherent bias so as not to affect his/her judgment and treatment of the young person.

5. Respect the Young Person’s Rights and Dignity – Having the young person confide in their mentor’s is part of the relationship however, mentors should inform the teenager of the obligation to break confidence if the information disclosed is deemed harmful to themselves or others


Other Resources

If you are someone who is currently or considering stepping up and taking an active interest in a young person’s growth and development as a friend and mentor, let me say good on you – there are not many better investments you can make.

But don’t feel like you have to do it alone, or stumble along learning the hard way.


There are a some really useful resources on the web for those of you are looking for a hand in developing mentoring type relationships.

If you have, or know of, other resources please let us all know in the comments below. Thanks.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Rick

    Hi, my name is Rick, I am currently mentoring a family friend, she is 15. I have been helping her for several months but we recently had a falling out of sorts, and it is become difficult for me because she has broken off all contact with me.. I don’t know how to handle the situation. She is a very shy, socially awkward teenager and has difficulty meeting and becoming friends with anyone. She currently only has two or three friends. Help me understand her.

  • Lationa James

    These are very useful resources for new mentors. It is always hardest in the beggining hopefully this motivates new people to become mentors along with my blog

  • Garry Raymonds

    I was actually a bad kid in middle school. I even went to jail for breaking into a house. The one thing that changed my life was having a couple good mentors in my life.

    I was lucky because I accidently found mentors. Only 1 out of 3 kids ever has a mentor, but it can literally save a kid and help them become successful. My parents never told me about that, but luckily they were supportive of me when I did have mentors.

    I think a great gift for any kid is to teach them about mentors and help them find one. https://www.preparemykid.com

  • Rico

    Very good article. I run a mentoring program in the schools in our town, including the continuation high school. If anyone is interested in starting such a program, please feel free to email me.

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