Everyone Needs a Mentor! Tips for Encouraging Mentorship in Kids and Adults
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”—John C. Crosby, mentoring expert
Everyone needs a role model, and mentors can be great role models. Although we tend to think that only adults mentor young people, mentors can be of any age. You can become a mentor, encourage your kids to become mentors, or find a parenting mentor for yourself—and a mentor for each one of your children. The possibilities and rewards are endless!
• Know that sometimes it can take time to find a good mentor. Don’t become discouraged if the first relationship doesn’t click. Keep looking for a mentor until you find a good fit.
• Find a mentor for each one of your kids. A mentor could be a coach, a music teacher, a school teacher, a neighbor, or someone at your work. You can also find mentors through formal mentoring programs, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or Help One Student to Succeed.
• Being a parent can be an isolating experience. Connect with other parents and find parents who have children who are older than yours. See if any of them have sage advice about parenting. You can develop long-lasting relationships with other parents, and parents who have older kids often can become your parent mentor—even if no one uses the word mentor.
• Become a mentor. You can volunteer through a formal program, such as Big Brothers or Big Sisters, but you can also mentor informally. All you have to do is find a child you connect with, and you can become that child’s mentor by becoming interested in that child’s life.
• Whenever you help your child connect more with his or her spark –whether it’s by finding a music teacher for your budding musician, a coach for your soccer-loving child, or an art class for your budding artist—you’re exposing your child to mentors within their spark.
• If you’re a single parent, find other safe, trusted adults to mentor your child. One single mom knew a neighbor who missed his grandkids because they lived out of state. She asked if this neighbor would take her son to the zoo, to the circus, and to the park, and he said yes. Soon, the neighbor and the son had developed a strong, mentor-mentee relationship.
• Talk with grandparents and older adults who have had children. Ask them for suggestions about how to parent young children well. They often can become helpful mentors for you.
• Notice other infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Smile at them. Get to know their names. Although these are asset-building actions, they’re also informal ways of being a mentor.
• Find other adults who love young children. They may be child care providers, extended family members, neighbors, or friends. Through these caring relationships, these adults mentor young children by delighting in who they are and showing them appropriate ways to act and talk.
• Encourage your child to mentor younger children. As children learn to read, they can read aloud to younger children and can become book buddies.
• Notice which teachers your child connects with. Young children often form deep, strong relationships with their teachers, and these teachers can make a big impression on children. Some teachers offer before- or after-school activities. Watch for these opportunities, and find ways to take advantage of them so that your child can connect even more with a teacher who is a mentor as well.
• If you find a good babysitter, this teenager or adult often can become a mentor for your child. How do you know who’s good? Your kids will tell you. They’ll love being with the babysitter.
• Teach your child to be caring and compassionate. Do a family volunteer project together. Encourage your child to be a good friend. These traits help your child not only become a good friend but also a good mentor.
• Get to know your child’s friends. Enjoy their antics (even if your child’s antics drive you crazy at times). Too many adults pull away from kids at this age, when these kids really need positive adults who care about them.
• When kids start going through puberty and pulling away from you, mentor relationships become even more important. Find a formal mentor program for your child (such as Big Brothers or Big Sisters) or an informal one (such as a favorite aunt or uncle).
• Encourage your teenager to become a peer helper (or find a peer helper to help out). Many schools and organizations now have peer helpers.
• Ask your teenager which adults they admire. Encourage them to spend some time with these adults to get to know them better. For example, some teenagers really enjoy a teacher at school, and some teachers will take teenagers on school trips (either within the United States or abroad) while others lead school clubs after school.
• Find ways for your teenager to mentor younger teenagers. In some schools, high school seniors are encouraged to befriend the freshmen so that freshmen feel that they belong to the school, have an upperclassman to go to, and also learn the rules from upperclassmen whom they admire. Some clubs or sports also pair up upperclassmen with the younger players in mentor relationships. These benefit everyone: the mentors and the mentees.