The importance of mentors for youth
Take a look back at your life. Who inspired you as a kid? Who was your role model? Who gave you life advice and guided you through difficult times?
How do you feel about these people? Chances are you consider them to be incredibly important people in your life – even if you have lost contact with them. They were people that were there for you in times of need and provided you with hope. People like that will never be forgotten.
November is National Inspirational Role Models Month. It is a time to remember those people in your life, be that person for someone else and bring people together who can help each other.
Research on youth mentoring
Study after study continues to prove what anyone who has been in a positive mentoring relationship already knows – mentoring is great for youth. Here are just a few facts highlighting the benefits of youth mentoring:
- A study conducted by North Carolina State University showed that youth from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to attend college when they have a mentor, particularly a teacher.
- The same study found that less than half of disadvantaged students have any adult mentor and that only 7% named a teacher as a mentor.
- A study of African American youth conducted by the University of Georgia found young people who had experienced discrimination, family stressors and abuse were less likely to break the law or engage in substance abuse if they had a positive mentoring relationship.
- Regardless of income level, a Psychology Today study showed that teens grew intellectually, interpersonally and emotionally from supportive mentors. For example, most reported they were better planners, organizers and problem-solvers and they grew in self-confidence and self-awareness.
How to find your child a mentor
Most of the time, you don’t have to look far to find a good mentor; you just need to be willing to step up and speak up.
- Be a mentor – Teens consistently cite parents as the people who influence their decisions the most. Check out Psychology Today’s list of qualities that every mentor needs to have.
- Talk to a teacher – Teachers often see a different side of children then parents do; they see how they work, interact with their peers and react to authority. Teachersmake great mentors because of this and because they are an outside voice. Your teens love you, but sometimes they need to hear advice from someone other than you. Reach out to your teen’s favorite teacher and ask if he or she can spend some extra time with your teen.
- Find a match – Programs like Big Brother, Big Sister are designed to match your child with the perfect mentor. Many people assume these programs are only for underprivileged children, and while that used to be true, the programs have grown and changed a lot over the years. These programs are now for all children in need of another positive role model in their lives.
No matter what demographics your family falls into, your children can benefit from having a mentor (or two!). Help your child connect with good role models so they can see where making good choices can lead them.