Career & Education

Mentors add value to a child's life

Dr Karla Hylton

Sunday, July 30, 2017

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Parents have a huge impact on a child's life. However, there are other adults who can also be positive role models for your child, particularly those who are disadvantaged in terms of parental support. They are called mentors. A mentor is a caring and trustworthy individual who provides a young person with advice, support, motivation and personal enrichment.

Mentors do not take the place of parents, but rather help to support parents in enhancing a young person's life. They reinforce good values in kids and promote confidence building.

Often, teens will feel more comfortable expressing their feelings and discussing issues with an 'outsider' rather than a parent. It does not mean that you are a bad parent, but out of respect or for some other reason, your children may not be comfortable talking to you about certain matters.

You will also find that some teenagers are more willing to take the advice of a mentor rather than that of a parent, even if it is the same advice. So, use this to your advantage and view a mentor as someone who helps you with the job of parenting.

Becoming a Mentor

The mentoring relationship can vary in its form and function. It exists between one individual in need of guidance and another who is capable and willing to provide such guidance.

Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful and positive effects on academic achievement, behaviour and personal development in teens.

Playing the role of mentor is hard work and certain traits are essential when considering this role.

The key to becoming a good mentor is to build mutual respect and trust with the mentee. Of course, this includes setting reasonable boundaries. Adults who are most trusted by mentees do the following:

• Emphasise the positive rather than the negative.

• Make the young person feel special and that he or she is a priority.

• Show genuine interest in and concern for the teen.

• Communicate and share experiences.

• Demonstrate objectivity and fairness.

• Show compassion and empathy.

• Set a good example.

Mentorship does not only benefit the mentee. It is a two-way street that features shared growth. The mentor benefits from improved self-esteem, increased patience, personal development, and a sense of accomplishment. It is awesome when you know you have made a positive difference in someone's life.

Boundaries

A healthy mentorship relationship must include boundaries. The level and type of contact allowed must be made clear from the beginning. For example, is your mentee allowed to contact you after 6:00 pm? What is the mode of contact? Is it by e-mail, messenger service or voice call? Mentors must be able to identify signs of unhealthy attachment and should address this promptly.

Types of Mentors

There is a wide variety of mentoring relationships that are broadly grouped as formal, informal, or among peers.

Informal mentoring is not managed by a larger organisation and usually develops spontaneously and as a result of trust. This happens often in an educational setting between a teacher and his/her student. It is a valuable relationship and there are hundreds of stories of educators truly changing the course of a student's life.

Young people with teacher mentors are more likely to pursue tertiary education. Since mentoring is a voluntary process, mentors and mentees are usually a good fit and such relationships are usually long-lasting. A person may have more than one mentors throughout life. In fact, having multiple mentors significantly increases the benefits.

Studies have found that young people who have an informal mentor report lower levels of delinquency, depression and anxiety. They display higher self-esteem and have positive achievements at school.

Formal mentoring is managed by a larger entity and can occur at schools, churches, community organisations, etc. These relationships are usually time specific and are often scheduled, tracked and documented. A disadvantage is that the mentors and mentees may not be a good fit for many reasons, therefore diminishing the effectiveness of the association.

Peer mentoring usually occurs between an older student (mentor) and a younger student (mentee). It is especially significant for students moving from primary to secondary-level schooling as it can greatly assist in the transition process. This is a type of formal mentoring because it is usually part of the school programme. Students recruited for mentor positions generally possess a positive attitude, optimism, empathy and compassion. These students are usually provided with an initial training to provide important listening and communication skills.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com.

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