It was once said that everyone needs a mentor and everyone needs to be mentored. And you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree with that statement. However, most of us, as fathers, were never formally trained on how to mentor anyone, especially our children. Teens are starving for attention from an adult who believes in them.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. They have no one to turn to for guidance when they’re suffering and need to talk.
Teens who lack the presence of a significant adult in their lives are targeted for bullying more often than peers who have strong adult support. Many teens find support they crave through participation in gangs. They are 80 percent more likely to struggle with depression and six times more likely to attempt suicide. Whether you’re mentoring through an organization or on your own, you don’t need to be extraordinary in any way. Here are five tips to help you be a good mentor. Whether you’re mentoring through an organization or filling the role with a child you already know, here are some guidelines to follow.
It is crucial that, as a mentor, you be a person of integrity. Your character is who you are when nobody’s looking. No man can be a good mentor and lead successfully without learning how to successfully lead himself. So it is critical that you mirror your message when mentoring your kids; which means you must be an example to them, not an excuse.
Being a good mentor isn’t about being a promise maker; it’s about being a promise-keeper. Effective mentors keep their commitments to their mentee. Keep your word to your children, especially when it comes to negative consequences. Your children must know that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. You must become one of the most reliable and dependable people they know.
Effective mentors “connect” for respect; meaning, they don’t demand respect from others, they earn it. And mentors earn it through honesty and transparency with their children. That means you must share your personal story with your children and not just the good parts. Let them know where they started, what almost stopped you, and what turned your life around.
It’s one thing to mentor with passion, but an effective mentor also mentors with “com-passion.” As a father, you must create a safe place for your children to share and heal as well as a healthy place for them to learn and grow. Sometimes you may have to get in their face to correct them, but you have to let them know you’re always on their side.
It’s not what we say or what we meant to say, but what’s actually understood; and effective mentors lead by listening, not lecturing. You have to learn how to ask the “right” questions, hold your children accountable, and empower, not enable, them in the pursuit of their goals. It’s your job to be understood, and it’s also your job to make sure you understand.
Experience may be a good teacher, but other people’s experience is an even better one. You can only take your children as far as you’ve traveled; so even as a mentor, you must show and demonstrate to your children HOW you got there and what potholes and pitfalls to avoid. Help them learn from your experience.
If commitment gets you started, then consistency keeps you going. An effective mentor stays in constant contact with whomever they’re mentoring. Because ultimately, mentoring is about building and maintaining relationships. There’s no such thing as an effective part-time father, and there’s no such thing as an effective part-time mentor. You may not be able to do everything for your children, but they should know you will always be there for them when they need you the most.
Assist Child in Determining Readiness
A successful mentorship requires dedication and commitment. If your son or daughter is unwilling to put forth the effort to find and establish contact with a mentor, a mentorship may not meet your child’s needs at this time. Be aware of your responsibilities to the child’s mentor. For example, make sure your child is available at the designated meeting time, and check in periodically to ensure your child is fulfilling his/her responsibilities.
Before pursuing a mentorship, it’s important to have a family meeting to discuss commitment levels. Setting guidelines in relation to time and money up front will alleviate disappointment later. Establishing how many hours per week your child has to devote to a mentoring experience is also critical. We recommend coming up with a plan for handling stress and conflicting responsibilities before they arise.
Assist your child in Researching Potential Mentors
An effective mentor should share your child’s interests. Professional and religious organizations, universities, and community groups are all good sources for potential mentors. Contacts you have may also be helpful. Even if your friends, acquaintances or professional contacts are not the right fit, they may have suggestions for you. There are several organizations that facilitate the mentoring process by helping students find appropriate mentors.
Let your Child Make the Contacts
It is important for every parent to help their kids make the contact. This will help clarify communications along the way and minimize misunderstandings in the process. Your child’s commitment at this stage will reflect her/his interest in the whole process.
Have fun together. Find out what kind of activities your mentee enjoys. Go bowling or watch a good movie. Shoot some hoops. Play miniature golf. Walk through a mall or grab a snack at a food bar. You need not spend a lot of money to build a strong mentor/mentee relationship; what’s most valuable is your investment of time.