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Teens benefit from mentor relationships

by on 07/17/2014

No matter how much you know, your teens usually think you don’t know anything. The rolling eyes signal you are so out of touch, behind the times. Try not to take it personally. This distance is part of adolescence; young people need to separate from their parents to develop their own identity.

Your kids may not listen to your wisdom, but they will often listen to other adults. Think back to your own teen years. Was there someone whom you looked up to who encouraged you and shared his or her experience and knowledge with you?

According to the National Mentoring Partnership, students who have mentors achieve more in school, have better self-esteem, relate well with all kinds of people and are less likely to choose risky behaviors. Mentors can also give young people another view of the world of work by sharing stories of their work life, relationships, challenges and accomplishments.

A study from North Carolina State University showed youth from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely to attend college when they have a mentor. However, even teens who aren’t considered “disadvantaged” can benefit from a mentor relationship.

“All teens reap big developmental dividends from nonparent mentoring relationships during their high school years,” wrote Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. in Psychology Today. She interviewed 40 youths who were mentored by adults.

Price-Mitchell found that while most teens don’t respond well to being pushed out of their comfort zones, particularly within families, they respond positively when mentors push them beyond what they think they can do.

Who are these mentors? They could be aunts or uncles, guidance counselors, neighbors, teachers, coaches, clergy members, scout leaders or volunteers such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters. There are several national mentoring programs. Visit these websites for more information:

If your child won’t open up to you, encourage them to find another adult who will listen, support and advise. Students Against Drunk Driving and Liberty Mutual Insurance offer this advice to parents:

  • Stay involved! Parent mentors are important regardless of the presence of other mentors. Teens Today research shows those teens whose parents talk to them regularly about important issues are more likely to make good choices.
  • Encourage your teens to communicate with and seek advice from adults in their lives.
  • Get to know your teen’s other mentors. Working together will benefit you and your teen.
  • To alleviate potential concerns, find out if the organization has a screening process, including background checks, for adults who are mentoring children.

Does your teen have a mentor? Tell us your story. How did the relationship develop? What benefits have you seen?




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