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Mentoring Matters: 5 keys to help your teens thrive

Close your eyes for a minute and think back to your teen and young adult years… Who were the important people in your life at the time? Who were the significant adults in your life?

I was blessed with an abundance of aunts, uncles and family friends who all played important roles in my youth. I have great parents too (*applauds my mum and dad*), but there is a special place in my heart for those grown-ups who didn’t have to invest in my life but chose to anyway.

Research tells us that high-quality relationships are crucial to the development of young teens and young adults. However, 40% of young people report feeling lonely (Search Inst. 2017) and possess one or less relationships they would deem significant (Search Inst. 2017). In a hyper-networked world, teens and young adults lack real relationships, and are at a high risk of not having a significant adult in their life to guide them through the unstable landscape of young adulthood.

In short, teens and young adults need mentors.

When I think about mentoring young people, I am reminded of this little gem from the Bible;

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Young people in our communities need invested adults to walk beside and guide them through the sitting, walking, laying and rising of life. Mentors for the mundane and monumental.

How does mentoring benefit teens and young adults?

The Search Institute uses the term ‘developmental relationship’ to describe the nature of healthy connection between significant adults (mentors, parents, coaches, teachers, etc.) and young people.

In layman’s terms, a Developmental Relationship is a close connection between a young person and an adult that positively influences the young person to help them thrive.

Through their research they identified three key benefits of these relationships;

  • Help discover identity
  • Help develop capability
  • Help discern purpose.

If you think about the important people in your life during your adolescent years, can you recall how they helped you discover your identity, develop your capabilities, and discern a sense of purpose?

How can I help the teens and young adults in my life?

The Search Institute’s research found five essential components of developmental relationships that benefitted young people the most.

Express Care. Young people don’t just need to be told they matter; they need to be shown. Think of how you can practically demonstrate to a young person that they are valued.

Challenge Growth. Young people need to be encouraged and pushed to keep getting better. Consider how can you encourage a young person to give their best and keep them accountable.

Provide Support. In order to grow, sometimes we need a little help. How could you assist a young person to complete their tasks and achieve their goals (without taking over)?

Share Power. We all want to feel empowered to make decisions and take action in our lives. How could you treat a young person with respect and give them a say in what is happening around and to them?

Expand Possibilities. I don’t know what I don’t know. Can you connect a young person with people, places and experiences that broadens their horizons?

Consider how the significant figures of your teens and young adulthood demonstrated these key elements, and how they impacted your life?

As the African proverb says; it takes a village to raise a child. Mentoring Matters, not just to avoid loneliness, but to assist teens and young adults to thrive on their journey to adulthood.

To read the full Search Institute report click here.


About the author…

Tess is a former school chaplain and youth pastor with 15 years of experience in youth work. She now serves as SU Australia’s Group Manager SU Equip, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. She holds a bachelor of communications and diploma of youth work.