The Importance of Teen Mentors
Being a teen is tough. Adolescence is filled with uncertainty, change, and many, many emotions (sometimes all in one hour!). Many adults look to their pasts and recall the profound influence a mentor had on their lives during adolescence. Whether it was a teacher, neighbor, clergy member, or sports coach, having the one-on-one support of a caring adult who is not a parent can yield positive, life-changing outcomes.
Why is it important to be mentored during the teen years? How do teenagers find the right mentors?
In a recent study involving more than 70 mentoring programs and more than 25,000 young people, researchers affirm what many other smaller studies have found—that mentoring has a significant effect on positive youth development (Raposa, et. al. 2019). This study, a meta-analysis, combined the results from many mentoring studies conducted between 1975 and 2017 to learn more about youth outcomes and the conditions under which mentoring is most effective.
Research shows that adult mentoring:
- Models positive social skills and facilitates interpersonal connections beyond family.
- Helps young people interpret and manage life challenges, including relationships with peers and parents.
- Facilitates meaningful conversations that boost cognitive skills and provides perspective.
- Strengthens self-regulation, one’s ability to manage emotions and impulses—to think before acting.
- Promotes identity development, a key task of adolescence, through modeling core qualities that contribute to human thriving, like empathy, curiosity, resourcefulness, and resilience.
- Opens doors to new ways of thinking, resources, and opportunities.
- Fosters self-efficacy—a belief in oneself.
Many formal mentoring programs have focused their efforts on working with young people with risk factors, like poverty or neighborhood violence. The results of these programs have benefited youth in many ways, including those listed above. However, recent large-scale research shows that the same benefits exist from youth mentoring regardless of risk factors, income, or ethnicity.
Being a mentor is different from being a role model, although good mentors are usually both. Role models serve as inspiration to children. They are not necessarily available to support them and often do not live close by. Mentors, on the other hand, usually know (or get to know) the young person well, sees them regularly and encourages them through a variety of life challenges. Learn how mentors influence the development of core abilities in youth that last a lifetime.
All teens benefit from non-parent mentors during adolescence. For this reason, teens should initiate their own mentoring relationships, like many young professionals have learned to do.
To read this article in its entirety, including five steps that teens can take in order to find a mentor, click HERE.