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Adolescence is an important period in a child’s development. A valuable way to help teens navigate this significant phase of growth is to provide them with a mentor. According to an article in Social Work License Map, “Youth are vulnerable to taking the wrong step, which is why mentors are important for them. Mentors may not be able to change how fast a child’s brain develops or force a child to make certain decisions, but mentors can share their worldviews, experiences, knowledge, support and advice, as well as provide a positive influence.”
A mentor is a caring adult, and not the parent, who a young person can trust to provide support, encouragement and guidance on day-to-day challenges they may face at school and in life. Adult mentors serve as role models and provide guidance that help young people learn how to make smart choices about challenges they face, and help teens build healthy, meaningful relationships that enhance their lives. Dr. Julie Connor, Ed.D, writes “A teen who doesn’t have a healthy relationship with an adult often lacks confidence. They are less likely to develop communication and social skills needed to establish strong personal boundaries because no one is available to be a role model.”
Futures Academy, a private school for grades 6-12, recognizes the valuable role mentors play for young people. With its 1:1 Instruction model, teachers at Futures Academy are naturally set up to serve as mentors to their students. They understand that in addition to their capacity to impart knowledge and inspire learning, they can provide camaraderie and support that help students make good decisions, build self-confidence, and realize their potential.
A five-year study sponsored by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada confirmed that youth with mentors exhibited more confidence in their academic abilities and had fewer behavior problems. Both girls and boys who were mentored were considerably less likely to develop negative conducts like bullying, fighting, lying, or losing their temper, or to suffer from anxiety and other issues related to peer pressure. Girls with mentors showed they were two and half times more likely to have confidence in their ability to succeed in school.
This research was further validated in a report, the Mentoring Effect, conducted by Civic Enterprises in association with Hart Research Associates for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership which revealed:
Young people who had mentors reported setting higher educational goals and are more likely to attend college.
Young adults who had mentors reported engaging in productive and beneficial activities more than youth without a mentor.
Young adults who had mentors spoke highly of the relationships. They said mentors provided dependable support, helped them keep on track in school, and to make healthy choices.
Mentored youth surveyed for this report showed positive outcomes in a number of areas. Mentees were more likely to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities, take leadership roles in school, and to regularly volunteer in their communities.
According to additional research by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “Nonparent mentors – teachers, clergy, and civic leaders – were highly instrumental in how these teens learned to believe in themselves and tackle challenging goals – much like those in the Big Brothers Big Sisters study.” Dr. Price-Mitchell is a Fellow at the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University where she continues to synthesize research in child and adolescent development, education and neuroscience.
If your teen doesn’t appear to be motivated in school or lacks confidence, consider finding a mentor. Better yet, consider the small but strong school community at Futures Academy where teachers serve as mentors by creating a positive learning environment that provides encouragement, develops confidence, and fosters a love of learning in each of its students.