How mentors can help youth flourish: Implications from positive psychology
Leach, C. J., Green, L. S., & Grant, A. M. (2014). Flourishing Youth Provision: The Potential Role of Positive Psychology and Coaching in Enhancing Youth Services. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 9(1). 44-58.
Great Britain and Australia have well-developed strategies for what is called youth work in these contexts – or the proactive promotion of positive development for all youth, with particular attention paid to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. In the interest of further improving youth work, Leach, Green, and Grant (2011) brought together research from the fields of positive psychology and evidence-based organizational coaching and focused on three key areas – well-being, resilience, and hope. The authors provided strategies and concerns to consider in working with youth to nurture the development of these strengths.
1) Well-being: Mentors can try to help youth to feel more engaged and satisfied with life. Youth may struggle with issues relating to self-identity, self-esteem, and authenticity such as those with disabilities, youth from ethnic minority or indigenous communities, and GLBT youth.
2) Resilience: Mentors can help their youth to develop internal protective factors by identifying special talents and encouraging the ability to maintain positive emotions at times of adversity and challenge. Youth may struggle especially with confidence, decision-making, social responsibility, and educational achievement.
3) Hope: Mentors can help youth to envision a preferred future for themselves, develop a sense of self-belief, and identify steps required to make their ideas about the future real. Youth face some level of anxiety in elucidating their dreams, and often parents are unable to offer a vision for the future or help to identify intrinsic goals. Mentors can increase hope by supporting and encouraging young people to explore their strengths and suggest activities to develop these strengths.
The fields of evidence-based coaching as well as positive psychology can inform youth mentoring. Evidence-based coaching provides a framework in which a goal such as improving school grades can be identified, and a positive psychological approach would posit that mentors could focus on developing youths’ visions for their future to achieve this goal. In this way, mentors would help develop the youths’ sense of hope that their schoolwork is meaningful.
Well-being, resilience, and hope can be built upon through shared social-educational activities that are enjoyable, challenging, and meaningful, helping youth to learn about themselves.