Sue Scheff: Mentoring Teens Today

Help build a child’s self-worth, help them to achieve their goals and encorage them to work hard academically!  Mentoring is not only important to so many kids today, it also gives you a sense of fulfillment. I know in my life, there have been many teens that have emailed me or called me – and just knowing that someone is there – willing to listen, and guide can bring so much hope and inspiration to those that would otherwise be lost.

mentoringSource: Connect With Kids

Mentoring

“Now that I got a big brother, we go out in public a lot [and] I smile a lot.”

– Tyrone Brown, 10

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a mentor for a lonely child, a new study might help you get motivated: kids with a mentor end up years later with more education, more money, and a better relationship with friends and family.

Ten-year-old Tyrone used to be shy and rarely played with other kids his age.  “And I didn’t like to smile because of my teeth, but now that I got a big brother, we go out in public a lot, I smile a lot and I don’t care what anybody says about my teeth, so I smile,” he says.

The “big brother” he’s talking about is Anthony Spinola, his mentor.

A study by Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America reports that confidence is just one of the benefits from having a mentor.

Mentored kids are also more likely to grow up and have a four-year college degree, a job making over $75,000 a year and have more meaningful relationships with their friends and family.

And, they are more likely to become volunteers like Itoro Ufot.   “A lot of people sacrifice a lot of time for me to be where I am now, and I feel like now that I’m in a position to give back, it’s probably my time,” he says.

Experts say mentors can even help kids who even have good role models in mom and dad.  “The child needs someone that’s special to them. It’s someone that [they] can talk to sometimes when [they] can’t talk to [their] parent,” says Janice McKenzie-Crayton of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

But before signing off on any mentor, parents need to ask questions to make sure the mentor is right for their child.

“The parent ought be told the likes and dislikes of the volunteer, the background of the volunteer, what the volunteer’s involved with, what work they do, etc.,” McKenzie-Crayton says.

Tips for Parents

Mentoring is derived from a Greek word that means “enduring.”  It is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as “a sustained relationship between a youth and an adult. Through continued involvement, the adult offers support, guidance and assistance as the younger person goes through a difficult period, faces new challenges or works to correct earlier problems.” Mentors can play a critical role, especially in situations where parents are unavailable or unable to provide responsible guidance for their children.

Why are mentors needed? In addition to the increase in single-parent homes and two-parent working families, statistics show that each day in the United States, nearly 7,000 students drop out of school and over 2,700 unwed teenage girls become pregnant. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, mentoring programs generally serve the following broad purposes:

  • Educational or academic mentoring helps young people improve their overall academic achievement.
  • Career mentoring helps mentored youth develop the necessary skills to enter or continue on a career path.
  • Personal development mentoring supports mentored youth during times of personal or social stress and provides guidance for decision-making.

How successful can mentoring be? According to statistics from Creative Mentoring, a mentoring program in Delaware, surveyed teachers reported the following changes in students who took part in the program:

  • Approximately 67% experienced an increase in self-confidence.
  • About 51% improved their attitudes toward learning.
  • An estimated 47% exhibited better cooperation.
  • Approximately 43% improved their reading skills.
  • About 40% completed more assigned tasks.
  • Nearly 36% increased their ability to work independently.
  • About 37% increased their ability to work well with others.
  • An estimated 42% took more responsibility.
  • About 46% improved their self-control,

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta reports the following statistics about students who are involved in its one-to-one mentoring program:

  • About 46% are less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs.
  • Approximately 27% are less likely to start drinking alcohol.
  • An estimated 52% are less likely than their peers to skip a day of school.
  • Nearly 30% are less likely to hit someone.
  • Female students participating in the program are five times less likely than other girls between the ages of 15 and 19 to become pregnant.

According to the National Mentoring Partnership, mentors and parents have specific roles to play in a mentoring relationship. A successful mentor is more of an adviser or a coach rather than a disciplinarian or substitute mother or father. In fact, if the mentor assumes a role as parent, it can do more harm than good. The National Mentoring Partnership recommends the following roles for parents and mentors:

Role Mentor  Parent
Confidant  X X
Adviser X X
Disciplinarian   X
Teacher X X
Friend X X
Decision-maker   X

References

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
  • National Mentoring Partnership
  • U.S. Department of Education
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