Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
I can’t remember where I read it, but a few years ago I was introduced to the idea that kids, particularly teens, need mentors.
A mentor is an older, trusted adult in whom a teen can confide and who can be trusted to provide sound advice, guidance, and encouragement.
It sounds a lot like a parent, doesn’t it? But, it isn’t.
Why do kids need mentors?
We are older, trusted adults who are willing to provide guidance to our kids and we always have their best interests at heart, so why on earth would we need to bring someone else into the picture?
Because we’re the parents.
Remember when you were a teen? Sometimes it’s just hard to talk to your parents about some things.
Maybe the topic is embarrassing or maybe you’re afraid you’re going to get into trouble. Maybe you’re fully convinced that your parents are old fogies who just don’t understand.
Photo by EDrost88
Whatever the reason, sometimes it’s easier for teens to talk to someone other than a parent. That leaves a couple of options – their friends or another trusted adult – a mentor.
If my kids are going to be seeking advice from someone other than me, I’d much rather it be a trusted adult than one of their friends.
My kids have some amazing, godly friends whom I trust to hold them accountable and steer them in the right direction – most of the time. The fact remains, my kids’ friends are still teens without the life experience to consistently make sound decisions.
Sometimes kids need a mentor.
Who can be a mentor?
Who might be able to fill the role of mentor to your teen? Relatives often make a great choice. My sister and her husband are the cool aunt and uncle. She is a few years younger than me and not their mother, which already makes her way cooler than me.
And, although my husband would never let anything happen to my girls and is perfectly capable of putting the fear of God into potential dates, it’s my brother-in-law they want to introduce boys to in a “this is my uncle so don’t mess with me” way.
Photo by Cindy Cornett Seigle
Family friends and “adopted” grandparents can be good mentors. My son connects really well with his best friend’s dad.
My husband and I feel completely confident that this man will always give our son sound advice and would give us a heads-up if there was something that we really needed to know.
Teachers, youth leaders, and coaches often make good mentors, as well.
My daughter’s gymnastics coach is about the age of her grandparents, but he’s much cooler than them because – well, I’m not really sure how he’s earned his cool points, but he has. Maybe it’s the way he goofs off with the girls during practice, but still commands respect.
Whatever it is, none of the girls rolled their eyes when he told them that the only boys they needed to be worried about right now were their dads and their coach. As a matter of fact, not only was there none of the eye-rolling that a similar statement from her dad or me would have generated, but the conversation was reported to me: “Mom, Coach Bill said…”
How to help your child find a mentor
I know one of the big concerns that any parent would have about a mentor relationship is that it would be abused by the adult. That’s why it’s important that you and your teen trust the person who fills this role. That’s also why it’s important to be open with your teen about what to do if that trust is ever violated.
There have been many conversations with my kids that went something along the lines of, “I don’t expect anything like this to happen and I would be completely shocked if it did. However if there is ever any situation with this person in which you feel uncomfortable, if he/she ever says/does something inappropriate or touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to tell me.”
I don’t think that you can really choose your child’s mentor for them. Part of what makes the role special is that this is a person in whom they have decided they can put their trust. However, you can certainly vet the people who seem to be falling into that role. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Is this someone that I trust to guide my teen?
- Does this person share our family’s morals and values?
- Is this someone with whom I’m comfortable with my teen spending time?
- Do they behave in ways that I’d be okay with my teen emulating?
A mentor can play a valuable role in a teen’s life. A good mentor will not diminish a parent’s role, but enhance it by reinforcing family values and encouraging the teen to honor his relationship with his parents.
Did you have a mentor as a teen and young adult? How did that help shape the person you’ve become?
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