Being a Mentor Matters

By January 3, 2019 Foster Care, Parenting

Having a mentor changed my life.

One of the best things that ever happened to me was when someone older and wiser decided to mentor me. Their thoughts and encouragement continue to shape me to this day. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the things I learned from my them.

Having a mentor changed my life.

Here are a few of the valuable lessons that I learned from my mentor:

  • Leading at work and leading at home is not that different
  • Never create an environment where people stop caring
  • You absorb the pressure so those you lead don’t have to

I also learned that mentoring is seasonal. It can seem like a daunting task, but a small investment in someone’s life can have life-transforming results.

According to a 2005 study by Southwick, Morgan, Vythilingam, & Charney, mentoring relationships may reverse some of the negative outcomes for which vulnerable youth, including those in foster care, are at risk. Medical researchers have discussed the impact of natural mentoring relationships for at-risk youth from a neurobiological perspective and propose that youth resilience may be enhanced when brain pathways change over time due to repeated positive experiences within a mentee/mentor relationship. They further suggest that natural mentors may serve as buffers against the development of certain mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, for at-risk adolescent populations.*

The benefits of having a mentor are obvious. However, we tend to forget that parents have the responsibility of mentoring their children.

“If you didn’t teach it to your child you should assume they don’t know how to do it.” – Dr. Karyn Purvis

Here are three reasons you should become a mentor.

Mentors Shape the Future

I am passionate about helping people understand trauma, it’s impacts and how it shapes the future. You can hear the excitement in my voice when I speak about trauma and it’s impacts. My tone, volume, and cadence all change.

If I want others to be excited about these things then I need to be investing in the next generation. My teenage son is passionate about these things, but not because we have a weekly appointment to discuss them. He is learning and growing because we do life together. We discuss things while they are happening. He is being mentored.

Shaping the future means you have to make an investment in a young person’s life.

Mentors Help Set Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are hard for most people. They are even harder for some of our children. Our kids have the appearance of boundaries because they have built walls around themselves. This is not healthy.

Being a mentor allows you to teach a child about safe boundaries. You can teach them that boundaries are better than walls. You can help them replace those isolating walls with safe and healthy relational boundaries.

Listening to a child’s voice lets them know that their thoughts, words, and feelings matter. It teaches them about setting safe boundaries.

Mentors Change Lives

We got to know a young mom some years ago who was really struggling. My wife started to mentor her in three very specific ways; finances, food, and parenting. We have less contact with her than we did in that season. But the results of the time invested are plain to see. She holds down a steady job and parents her daughter. She pays her bills and lives on her own.

Having a mentor set her up for success. It is a simple (although not always easy) way make a positive impact in another person’s life.

Mentoring Matters

You can shape the future by investing in someone else. Sharing your wisdom and experience is important to do. I can’t think of a better message to send someone than to let them know the matter to you.

*Natural Mentoring of Older Foster Care Youths — Behavioral Health Benefits
Johanna K. P. Greeson, PhD, MSS, MLSP; Allison E. Thompson, MSS, LSW; and Susan Kinnevy, PhD, MSW
July/August 2014 Issue of Social Work Today