Mentoring Young People: 3 Practical Tips - Activfirst
Mentoring young people is a challenging experience at times, but it is also extremely rewarding. In this type of role, you will rely upon a range of skills and knowledge to effectively mentor a young person. But trust is something that should always be at the heart of all the help and support offered. Trust is something that can take a long time to build, but is worth the time and effort! You may even become a professional person that people often refer back to at different stages of their lives.
Effectively Mentoring Young People
Listen to everything that the young person has to say. They often have a unique story that they wish to tell. However, in many cases, they have never had the chance to speak openly without someone casting judgement. As their Mentor, it isn’t helpful to presume the ending or the impact a young person’s experiences have had on their lives.
Instead of assumption, practise active listening. This affords young people the space to be angry, sad or happy at the cards they have been dealt. As their Mentor, use this knowledge to help them in the future. If something makes them happy, keep this in mind for their bad days. Equally use their negative experiences to shape the activities that you plan in the future. This way you can avoid unnecessary behavioural triggers.
There is a big difference between challenging someone and judging them. The latter can leave a lasting negative impression on the working relationship between a young person and Mentor. Often, young people will say the most outlandish and shocking things to see how their Mentor will react to this information. This again is testing the trust that you are slowly building with the young people on your caseload. This is often how they have lost relationships or have been let down in the past.
Preempting your reaction to their outlandish behaviour is a defence mechanism. Standing strong, consistently showing support and always showing up will soon show them you can be relied upon, no matter what. This will lead to challenging conversations and setting the boundaries of what is appropriate within the working relationship.
As a Mentor you may be there to help, but remember ‘you ain’t no fool.’ If something needs to be addressed, no matter how hard it is to approach, you need to have that open and honest discussion. This leaves no elephants in the room so the young person will always know where they stand with their Mentor.
Find a Common Interest
A common interest could be something as simple as sports, animals or TV. But having this common ground can make even the darkest days brighter. It can even be developed into a coping mechanism to help them, not just now but in the future. For example, a brisk walk outside, or a kick about in the gym can build a rapport that opens conversations and encourages honesty. These kind of breakthroughs cannot always be achieved in a formal setting, sat across from each other, divided by a desk.
One thing is for certain, being a Mentor is an absolute privilege; seeing someone go through their darkest hour and helping them to find something to be hopeful for again is so rewarding. Ultimately, to help a young person to succeed and share in their success, is something that a price cannot be put on!
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