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How Mentoring Teenagers Benefits Both
the Teens and Their Mentors
by Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW for

An important dimension of teenagers' emotional, intellectual and spiritual development is the critical role that a positive mentoring relationship can play in their life.

And one of the most interesting conclusions of mentoring researchers is that mentoring is highly beneficial not only for the teenagers involved, but also for the adults who do the mentoring.

mentoring coach

Mentoring benefits mentors as well as mentees.

How Mentoring Benefits The "Mentees"

All children are born with the potential to lead full, successful, meaningful lives, and to make significant contributions to the world around them.

Unfortunately, not all children have access to adults who can help them to achieve all of their goals. Even the most talented and motivated of preteens and teenagers need to have helpful, encouraging adults in their lives, adults they can trust and can learn from.

If you think back to your own childhood, you may be able to recall an adult who played the role of a valuable mentor in your life. Perhaps it was one of your parents, or a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or perhaps it was a teacher or a coach who took the time to talk to you-and also listen to you-about life's joys and challenges, and what you hoped to achieve in your life.

To put it in the simplest possible terms, mentors make the youths they mentor feel good about themselves and deeply valued as human beings. Ideally, a mentor works in tandem with other nurturing adults in a child's life, but sadly, this is not always the case. Some children do not have other caring adults they can turn to, and in these cases, mentors may assume a more central role in their mentees' lives.

Think of mentors as nurturing adults who volunteer to give their time and energy to young people, offering them encouragement, support, guidance, suggestions, kindness and positive role modeling. A mentor's role is to enable mentees to stay focused and motivated in school and other activities by providing them with a sense of structure, helping them to overcome obstacles, and encouraging them to work toward achieving their educational and (eventual) career goals.

Many mentees find that when they have caring adult mentors in their lives, their grades go up; their life and career goals become more crystallized; and their sense of self-esteem increases substantially.

mentoring teacher student

When we help others, we help ourselves in the process.

How Mentoring Benefits Mentors

At the beginning of this excellent article
about what adults stand to gain from mentoring, Dr. Jean Rhodes opens with the following lovely quote from Charlotte's Web, which so beautifully captures what mentoring can mean to the individuals who are doing the actual mentoring:
"Why did you do all this for me?" [Wilbur] asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."

"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. …"By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift my life a trifle. Heaven knows, anyone's life can stand a little of that."
To summarize several of the key points in Rhodes' article, some of the specific benefits for mentors that researchers have discovered include the following:

  1. An improved sense of health and well-being

  2. An enhanced self-image and sense of self-worth

  3. A sense of feeling valued and appreciated

  4. A sense of feeling competent and accomplished

  5. A sense of spiritual fulfillment

  6. A feeling of having gained deeper insights into one's own childhood experiences

  7. A deeper understanding of and appreciation for one's own children

  8. A sense of satisfaction from "giving back to the community"

  9. A sense of feeling needed

  10. A sense of helping oneself through the act of helping others (as highlighted in the above quote from Charlottes Web)

  11. A feeling of being respected by others for contributing to society in a very important way

The research also indicates that adults who mentor youths often learn how to make sense of and come to grips with their own experiences as teenagers. That is, the mentoring relationship helps them to revisit how they felt as teenagers, and how they coped with their own youthful challenges.

What Factors Contribute To A Successful Mentoring Relationship?

Some of the articles in "The Research Corner" of compare a positive mentor-mentee relationship with a positive counselor-adolescent client relationship. Of course, mentors are usually not professional therapists, but they are caring adults in teenagers' lives; and both mentors and therapists share the common goal of nurturing the positive growth and development of the teenagers in their care.

In evaluating which factors best predict a positive mentoring relationship, studies indicate that the first issue to consider is the set of strengths that the teenage mentee brings to the table.

For instance, if a youth enters into a mentoring relationship with a supportive family and/or a strong desire to make real changes in his life, this can bode very well for the overall quality of his relationship with his mentor, as well as the amount of growth that the relationship can help him to achieve.

Also, as discussed in this article, for a mentor-mentee relationship to work really well, the teenager needs to feel a strong rapport or bond with the mentor. (This, as the article points out, is also true of counseling relationships. Indeed, for a therapeutic relationship to work well, the client must feel strongly bonded with the counselor).

A hopeful, positive attitude on the part of both mentor and mentee is another important ingredient-that is, if the two people involved have high hopes and strong expectations that the relationship will succeed, then all of this positive energy usually results in a good mentoring relationship.

Researchers also point out that young people seem to benefit the most from mentors who engage them in specific, structured activities (rather than only engaging them in supportive conversations… though of course supportive conversations can be extremely helpful, too).

If you have ever considered mentoring, please visit to learn more about all of the wonderful mentoring opportunities that exist right now. If you do decide to become a mentor, you may quickly discover that it is one of the most rewarding ways that you can give back, not only to your own community, but to the world.

Recommended Reading

Joining A Gang: How To Help Kids Prevent It

How To Talk To A Teenager and Know That They're Listening


Charlotte's Web

Community for Youth

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