15 Tips & Resources for Mentors of Youth
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.
- Have realistic goals and expectations – focus on the teenager and their overall development. Your early efforts should just be on developing rapport.
- Have fun together – play games, go bowling, go to the movies, etc.
- Give the teen you’re mentoring a voice and choice in deciding on activities – it demonstrates your trust, and builds skills and confidence.
- Be Positive – be encouraging and offer concrete assistance.
- 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.
- Listen – ‘Just Listening’ will develop trust – not criticising or judging.
- Respect the trust the teenager places in you – show them that you understand and are committed to the relationship.
- Be a friend – don’t be a parent or authority figure.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- Youth Mentoring Network
- National Mentoring Center
- Victorian Youth Mentoring Alliance
- Mentor Foundation
If you have, or know of, other resources please let us all know in the comments below. Thanks.