January 10, 2021
MENTOR is thrilled to announce the release of Becoming a Better Mentor: Strategies to be There for Young People. This resource, written by experts in the field, has been designed to benefit any adult who is looking for actionable ways to support a young person. Full of real-world advice that is relevant to our current context, it provides mentors with tangible strategies to “be there” for young people – from understanding effective online communication to practicing cultural humility and providing emotional support and empathy. The primary audience is people whose mentoring occurs naturally in community settings like schools, community businesses, and other environments where mentoring relationships and connections are formed every day. For mentors associated with a program, the aim of Becoming a Better Mentor is to supplement the training mentors already receive in those contexts.
Mike Garringer, MENTOR’s Director of Research and Evaluation, notes that this resource fills a bit of a gap in the practice tools available to the mentoring movement. “We have spent a lot of time and energy over the past few decades producing guidance for mentoring professionals, for the practitioners who develop and lead all types of mentoring programs. But most youth will not get their mentoring through a formal program, but instead through teachers, faith leaders, coaches, and myriad other adults who they come into contact with. Those adults often express challenges with providing support beyond their traditional role and can sometimes lack confidence or understanding in how to handle things that come up when you are supporting a young person. We wanted to create a resource that spoke to mentoring where it happens and build up the skills and abilities of all mentors, based on what research suggests are critical aspects of the mentor role.”
Becoming a Better Mentor has been developed with key ideals in mind. Mentors can and should:
- Bring empathy and fun to their relationships with youth.
- Create opportunities for young people by working with and expanding a youth’s web of support.
- Honor youth voices and build their critical consciousness.
- Strive for cultural humility and respect.
- Avoid engaging in behaviors, such as shaming or giving unsolicited advice, that hurt the relationship and make youth resistant to positive change.
- Engage in activities that are youth-centric and do no harm.
The resource is free and offers mentors multiple ways to engage. For example, there is a written resource that consists of 12 key relationship topics to give mentors specific tips to support young people in today’s complex world. Here’s a snapshot of each topic:
- Providing Emotional Support and Empathy: Working to understand your mentee’s experiences from their point of view can improve their reception of your support and greaten your impact.
- Practicing Cultural Humility: As a mentor, it is essential to engage in continuous self-reflection and to actively seek opportunities to learn about your mentee’s identity and cultural experiences.
- Making Room for Fun and Play: By centering joyful experiences in mentoring relationships, mentors can form stronger, more meaningful connections with their mentees.
- Attunement in Mentoring Relationships: Developing a strong self-awareness about your own emotional and physical state can make you better equipped to read the cues of your mentee and respond to their preferences and needs.
- Understanding Effective Online Communication: Because many young people today are digital natives, engaging with your mentee in a virtual setting may make them feel more comfortable and willing to communicate.
- Facilitating Group Interactions: When mentoring groups of young people, building a strong sense of belonging can help create a community where members want to participate and are excited to engage.
- Working With Others In the Mentoring Relationship System: Making an effort to get to know the other adults in your mentee’s life can improve your understanding of and ability to communicate with your mentee.
- Honoring Youth Voice and Building Power: Adults interested in elevating youth voice must learn how to listen critically and be willing to take a step back and share power with young leaders.
- Building Critical Consciousness and Youth Activism: Youth power building is not about rendering adults useless – it’s about centering young people and positioning adults as supporters and resources rather than leaders.
- Goal Setting and Support: Intentionally supporting your mentee through the process of setting and pursuing goals is one important way you can guide them towards discovering new passions and a strong sense of purpose.
- Conversations About Behavior Change: Some of the most effective ways to encourage positive behavioral changes in a mentee are to ask questions, engage in active listening, and express empathy and understanding.
- Expanding Networks of Support: By helping their mentees strengthen existing relationships and form new connections, mentors can encourage the exploration of diverse pathways and improve their mentee’s access to new opportunities.
For those who prefer listening to content, each one of the written sections has an accompanying audio file. There are also animations to visually depict key concepts and messages. Mentors and potential mentors can choose the method most aligned to their styles and preferences.
MENTOR convened an advisory group of its Affiliates who are situated in regions throughout the country to support the development of the topics to ensure relevance. Advisory group member Toni Lampley from the Iowa Mentoring Partnership said:
“For all the people in my community who don’t know what to do, I have been telling them there is a child that needs you. Mentor. Our school district needs help. The community needs to help the community instead of waiting for someone else to do it. As I read this body of work, the word that keeps coming up is intentional. If you want to be intentional about making an impact in a child’s life, this is a valuable resource. If you want to be intentional about building a relationship with a young person, the fundamentals in Becoming a Better Mentor will assist you.”
If we mentor or want to become a mentor, we need support to be the best mentors we can be. To start that journey, go to mentoring.org/bettermentor.
To access the resource, please click here.
To read the full text, please click here.