In mentorship relationships, everyone wins. Mentors get to have a positive outlet for the many skills and experiences gained over their lifetime, along with the rewarding opportunity to make a difference in another person’s life. Those being mentored get the benefit of the wisdom that comes with years, as well as a positive relationship with a person who’s older and more stable and dependable than most peers. But how, exactly, does this kind of mentorship relationship occur?
Types of Teen Mentorship
Program-driven mentorship and organic mentorship relationships can both play unique roles in the lives of teens, but the benefits of mentorship aren’t necessarily tied to a specific program or mentoring method. But they’re very real.
In a 5-year study by the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada (BBBSC), children who had mentors benefited by having fewer behavior problems and peer-pressure-related anxiety, along with more confidence. However, in other studies particularly relating to unassigned mentor-mentee relationships that began naturally (mentors ranged from teachers to clergy and civic leaders), mentorship by adults other than parents was cited as an instrumental in helping teens develop the self-confidence necessary to reach toward personal goals.
To some extent, organic mentorship occurs naturally in the rhythms of life, but it can also be welcomed and nurtured — or not. If you notice that a teen you know shows interest in learning a skill you have or seems to lack positive influences or support, let them know you’re willing to connect!
Positive Teen Mentorship
As we discussed in Part 1, everyone is a potential mentor. While willingness is definitely a key quality, in order to make a positive impact, there are a few other learned skills that all good mentors demonstrate:
1. Supportive and Encouraging
2. Active Listening Skills
3. Willing To Push (But not too hard)
4. Personally Interested in the Youth
5. Fostering Independent Decision-Making
6. Willing To Share Perspective and Help Evaluate Choices
Teen Leadership Mentoring
Maybe you didn’t realize that leadership skills and mentorship truly go hand-in-hand, but they do! While people can still learn and improve leadership skills as adults, teens also need training and/or mentorship to acquire these valuable skills. Since teens lack opportunities to practice such skills, they need mentors who will allow them to work through problems instead of stepping in to criticize or fix things on their own. Taking teens seriously and sharing in the responsibility for their choices can help set teens up to take risks in the future. Teens have less capability to think through results of their choices, simply because they have fewer personal experiences from which to draw.
On a positive note, teens can be easier to mentor because they’re usually quick learners and have less baggage to “unlearn” than most adults. Because they’re still developing, the leadership skills you teach them can become cemented as a part of their personality and character. They can be more willing to take risks simply because they haven’t experienced failure often enough to fear it, making them more likely to succeed.
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