All parents hope that their children will grow up healthy, happy, and productive. They aspire to have children who have the skills to contribute to their own well-being and to the well-being of their families and community. There is no magic bullet for developing these capacities in children. Literally thousands of programs have been developed to support families in their efforts to help children to become competent, confident, caring young people who have positive social connections and good characters.
Children have the potential to succeed in life and contribute to society. However, not all children get the support they need to thrive. By all estimates, an astounding 17.6 million young people - nearly half the population between 10 and 18 years of age - live in situations that put them at risk of not living up to their potential. Without immediate intervention by caring adults, they could make choices that undermine their futures. The presence of caring adults offering support, advice, friendship, reinforcement and constructive examples has proved to be powerful tools for helping young people fulfill their potential.
Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee. A mentor is an adult who, along with the parents, help young people bring out strengths that are already there. They are good listeners, compassionate and teach children how to live an honorable life. A mentor is not a foster parent, therapist, parole officer, or cool peer. The role of a mentor is not to "fix" young people but rather to help them achieve their full potential. Enforcing competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution to self and society, help develop a child into a productive and respectful adult in later years.
A mentor's main purpose is to help a young person define individual goals and find ways to achieve them. Since the expectations of each child will vary, the mentor's job is to encourage the development of a flexible relationship that responds to the young person's needs. Using influence and resources as a decision maker, adults can bring new hope to young lives through the power of mentoring. A mentor encourages positive choices, promotes high self-esteem, teaches respect for oneself and family, supports academic achievement, and introduces the young person to new ideas. Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking alcohol (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters). About 40% of teenager's waking hours are spent without any companionship or supervision. Mentors provide children and teens with a valuable place to spend free time. Children learn to make thoughtful choices, fulfill their commitments, acknowledge their mistakes and account for their actions. By taking control of their lives, children realize they can achieve more than they ever dreamed possible.
I encourage you to think of the mentors in your own life - a coach, teacher, or another caring adult, and take a few minutes to consider all the contributions they have made in your life during your developing years. I know throughout my own adult life and business career, I have been greatly rewarded by years of mentoring children and young adults into productive, happy individuals that are successful in life. Children need someone to believe in them. Often times, children lack the attention needed to reinforce morals, values and self esteem on a daily basis. It makes all the difference in the world during times of indecision in their lives to have that reinforcement. Mentoring develops children into young adults who have confidence, determination and self-awareness.
Mentoring is recognized throughout the US as an important part of a child's life and some states have already proposed legislation to the Senate. The Coalition of State Mentoring Partnerships has worked closely with Capitol Hill staff and Senators to advocate this legislation. The Mentoring for All Act 2008 (S. 3200) is one of the most significant legislation actions to benefit mentoring. Please call; send emails or letters to your Senators urging support for the bill.
Denise Dema is a Business and Life Management Coach who has over 20 years experience empowering individuals, entrepreneurs and business owners to attain self-defined success in their professional & personal lives. To learn more about the author and her practice please visit www.denisedema.com