Sandra Louk LaFleur is Associate Vice President, Research, Evaluation, & Innovation for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America
You make very salient points about the importance of engaging our youth, especially our young adults, around topics that could easily be considered as “too touchy” for most. What we need to do is step forward and help our youth navigate through the tough topics, rather than just around them. To do this is to, indeed, help stretch their minds (and ours!) in a safe and healthy way that can only translate into positive communication skills for the future. I think your advice about first understanding what the goal of the conversation should be (learning, exploring, sharing, communicating) is so critical because it will help set up the right guideposts for when the talk may go off track. One of the most valuable results of a mentoring relationship is the true sharing of two different viewpoints, regardless of what the differences are, and there is much to be gained, for both mentor and mentee. It’s not always easy to engage in these types of talks (and that’s why seeking some advice from other mentors or support staff is so helpful), but the possible outcomes are so worth it!