As you're making your resolutions for the new year, consider adding mentoring to your list. January is National Mentoring Month, a national campaign to increase awareness about the benefits of mentoring. Young people need mentoring relationships to help them grow into adults and make their way into the world. Think about how you felt when you opened your first bank account as an adult or changed a tire on your car. Many young people don't know how to approach different situations. It's estimated that about 33 percent of youth do not have a mentor. Many times, this relationship is informal. It might be a family friend or church member who takes an interest in a teenager. Sometimes, mentoring happens through formal volunteering options, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters or FFA. However this relationship is formed, research clearly demonstrates that mentoring is very beneficial to the mentee.
Benefits of Having a Mentor
Youth who meet regularly with a mentor are less likely than their peers to begin using illegal drugs or start drinking. Mentoring increases academic attitudes and grades, and it reduces symptoms of depression in teens. Students with mentors are less likely to skip school or a class, and they're more likely to aspire to college and to actually graduate. Mentoring helps at-risk youth face the challenges that put them at risk. Even with a supportive family, young people still need trusted adults who offer guidance and advice. Youth with mentors are more confident and have fewer behavioral problems.
Who Makes a Good Mentor?
Although the requirements for being a mentor might be different with different organizations, there are some qualities that mentors need to be a good person to provide advice to a young person.
- You should be supportive and not judgmental. As a young person tries to solve problems or overcome obstacles, he or she needs encouragement and reminders of his or her value. You don't have to solve problems, just be there to listen.
- You need to be an active listener. Often, the ideas of teenagers are marginalized or overlooked by most adults. As a mentor, you should listen first and speak later.
- You should be able to push a teenager out of their comfort zone, without pushing them away. Mentors need to hold high expectations and help the young person find a way to reach their goals.
- You should be interested in the young person as an individual. If you're just playing a role or mentoring as part of your own agenda, a teenager is going to know.
- You should be able to encourage good decision-making. The idea isn't to impose your own beliefs on the young person, but to help someone gain the confidence to make good choices.
- You should lend perspective, helping a teenager see more than one side of a situation.
- You should be able to make a commitment to the young person.
Mentoring Changes Your Life
When you mentor a young person, it doesn't only change that one individual. It affects your life. You gain confidence in your interpersonal relationships. It provides a sense of accomplishment in your own life and gives you more insight into childhood and adolescence, which can be even more valuable if you have children yourself. You also learn to be more patient and improve your supervisory skills. If you're interested in becoming a mentor, check with local organizations that work with children, the school or a church to find opportunities. You can also find more information about mentoring at serve.gov. Make a change in your own life this year by making a change in someone else's life.