As a hero who gives back your community, you are also someone who kids can, and should, look up to, no matter what their age. Being a mentor is one of the best ways to ensure they have the support and leadership they need to become strong-minded individuals. By helping them become good citizens, you are further helping your community.
If you think about any mentor you’ve had in the past, what stands out about them? Was it that they seemed to get you? Or maybe because they always helped point you in the right direction? You now have the chance to take what you learned from the mentors in your life and pass those valuable skills on to the next generation.
What Does It Really Mean to Be a Mentor?
As a mentor, you want to make yourself available to someone who needs your guidance and support. This person can be the neighbor boy next door, or a distant relative. You can even actively participate in local mentoring programs. As a teacher, police officer, firefighter, EMT, healthcare worker or military personnel, you are already a positive role model. Creating a meaningful relationship with a kid makes a huge difference if their situation is less than desirable. As a mentor, you should be able to do the following:
Give Attention to the Child
This skill is obvious. Most children and young adults who need mentoring are usually lacking in positive attention from peers and family members. By spending time with them, you are giving them much needed care that will help them in so many ways.
Have Positive Self-esteem
For you to be a good example for these children, you have to believe in yourself. These kids will learn from you, and when you believe in yourself, you are showing them how to believe in themselves.
React well to Stressful Situations
You deal with stressful situations as part of your job, and you can bring that type of much-needed calm into a child’s life. Most children won’t know how to handle stressful situations, making it a valuable lesson to teach them.
Listen to the Child when They Talk
Adults tend to talk over children. If a child needs a mentor, you can imagine they are used to that type of behavior from adults in their life. Being a mentor allows you the opportunity to give a kid the chance to talk if they need to. You can always give advice later, but at first, just let them speak. Sometimes being a good listener is the best gift you can give someone.
Communicate at the Child’s Level
If you are dealing with a small child, make sure you are talking at a level they understand. If you’re spending time with a young adult, don’t treat them like a child. Kids know when you’re real, so stay honest and let them know you see them for who they are.
You are someone they will look up to. With your proven leadership abilities, you can teach them many different social, mental, and physical skills that will help them stay in school, graduate and choose the right path for their future.
Be Committed and Accept Responsibilities
You are possibly the only stable relationship this child may have. Make sure you are in it 100 percent. Even if you are only meeting up with them once a week or so, make sure you get there. Just showing up on time demonstrates to them that you care.
Reinforce the Child’s Success
Being a mentor is all about positive reinforcement and being a good example. Revel in their success, no matter what the occasion. If they have trouble getting to school every day, then celebrate five days of school in a row. If they do well on a test, get excited. They may not be used to this type of positivity, and it will motivate them to do even better.
What a Mentor Doesn’t Do
Your position as a mentor does not mean you are replacing the role of parent or guardian. Think of yourself as a big brother or sister, or an aunt or uncle. You never want to undermine what the child’s parents are teaching them. Focus on positive reinforcement and just be there when the child needs someone to listen to their thoughts. You are not required to solve every problem the child experiences. Remember, you are there to be a positive role model for them to learn from and to provide support as you are able.
The Benefits of Being a Mentor
When you get the chance to connect with a young person, you have the opportunity to help them succeed. As a hero, you are already in the position to know how much a positive role model can affect a child’s life. Receiving guidance and support from a caring adult means being motivated to stay in school and graduate, encouragement to avoid drugs and alcohol, and help in choosing a career path. From you, they gain higher self-esteem, and they improve their interpersonal relationships with their peers, teachers, and family members.
Opportunities to Mentor
There are many different ways to become a mentor. If you already know of someone who could benefit from your friendship, that’s a great way to start. There are also several programs that offer opportunities to become a mentor.
To find mentoring programs near you, I would recommend MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. The mission of MENTOR’s is to
“fuel the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people and to close the mentoring gap.”
This program is working to educate the public about the benefits of mentoring programs. MENTOR works with affiliates in 23 U.S. states and is looking to expand even further. If you are serious about becoming a mentor, check out their website to find an opportunity near you.