Mentoring matters to a child or teen. It is transformative. Adults who develop healthy relationships with youth act as role models, build social skills, and help children who may experience adversity feel supported. January is National Mentoring Month. National Mentoring Month raises awareness about the importance and positive impact of mentors in children’s lives. Mentoring is really about developing a strong, healthy relationship between an adult and child or teen. These relationships act as resiliency factors and have lasting, positive impacts for youth and communities.
How does mentoring impact our youth?
According to The National Mentoring Partnership at-risk youth who have a mentor are more likely to succeed.
- 46% are less likely than unmentored youth to use illegal drugs
- 52% of students that are mentored are less likely to skip school and 37% less likely to skip class then unmentored peers
- 55% are more likely to enroll in college or higher education
Youth who have a positive role model in their lives feel cared for and valued. This feeling boosts self-esteem and helps youth deal with challenges they may face.
Studies have shown that mentoring can reduce depression in youth. Additionally, it can also boost academic performance and attitude towards school as well as provide wider social acceptance. As mentioned, having a positive role model also builds resiliency. Resiliency is defined as a positive adaptation in the face of difficulties (Newman, 2002). These difficulties could be a result of family challenges, personal, or environmental factors such as violence in the neighborhood. When these difficulties are extreme, the results can be detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health, development, and future success.
What happens when a child who could benefit from mentoring does not get it?
Experiencing neglect, abuse, poverty and/or witnessing abuse and violence can have lasting effects on a child, causing difficulties in life. These difficulties can result in a high ACEs score. When a child experiences these types of challenges, and they are not given the support or mental health treatment they need to cope, they can experience long-term negative outcomes. These negative outcomes include chronic disease, mental illness and a higher risk of using drugs, becoming obese, or committing suicide.
Mentoring changes lives!
Just having one person care about you or encourage you can do wonders! It can change a child’s behavior and emotional regulation. The impact is far reaching and extends into future, personal relationships and even school success. Having supportive relationships like the mentor/mentee relationships can be the difference between a child thriving and a child suffering.
The results of a child having a mentor include:
- positive thinking,
- building up of confidence,
- reduction in anxiety,
- forging other strong relationships with others, and
- learning methods to cope with stress.
Taking on the role of a mentor can be positive for you too. As a role model you would teach, help, offer feedback and advice, befriend, guide, and care for another person. As a mentor you will also gain something. You will get reminders about valuable lessons you have learned in your life. You will gain perspective and you will learn something from the youth you work with. And finally, as a guide to a young person you also will develop skills that will improve you as a leader because it will help you recognize your strengthens and weaknesses.
Search your local youth programs, religious organizations, after school programs, and nonprofits in your community to find ways of mentoring. You will discover that on this road to helping you are being helped too.
“Promoting resilience: A review of effectives strategies for child care services” by T. Newman
National Mentoring Partnership at mentorship.org
“The Role of Risk” by Carla Herrera, David L. DuBois, and Jean Grossman
The Chronical of Evidenced-Based Mentoring “It’s a two-way street: Four ways mentoring benefits the mentor” by Alex Lyman