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
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
When we help others, we help ourselves in the process.
How Mentoring Benefits Mentors
At the beginning of this
excellent Mentoring.org 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.
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:
An improved sense of health and well-being
An enhanced self-image and sense of self-worth
A sense of feeling valued and appreciated
A sense of feeling competent and accomplished
A sense of spiritual fulfillment
A feeling of having gained deeper insights into one's
own childhood experiences
A deeper understanding of and appreciation for one's
A sense of satisfaction from "giving back to the
A sense of feeling needed
A sense of helping oneself through the act of helping
others (as highlighted in the above quote from Charlottes
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
Mentoring.org 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
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
If you have ever considered mentoring, please visit www.Mentoring.org
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.
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