The Magic of Mentoring: January is National Mentoring Month
TLC GUEST BLOGGER: Carmen Richardson, MSW, RSW, RCAT, REAT
A mentoring relationship is one in which one person offers wisdom and expertise to another. These relationships are believed to be life changing.
Magic is defined as having the power to influence by using mysterious powers. Perhaps it really isn’t so much that these relationships are magic. Yet, what is it then, that this kind of relationship offers a young person?
I began asking young people I knew or worked with and older people about the mentors in their lives. I asked what it was that made that person a mentor and how that relationship influenced their lives. The following are some of the gifts they reportedly received in the mentoring relationship:
- Belief in self
- Practical support
How did this relationship influence their life?
“I started to believe in myself and really wanted to help others.”
“I went to university. I never dreamed I had it in me!”
“His passion for learning lit a fire in me. I became a teacher.”
“I chose to live.”
Think back over your own life. Who made a difference in your world? A teacher, coach, friend, parent, sibling? There were no mentoring programs back in my day growing up in a small prairie town, however, I can certainly think of a few people who changed my life. There was Jackie, the woman I babysat for as a teenager. When she would come home, more often than not, we sat together talking into the night. There were many things that stood out for me about that relationship. One was that she listened. Even back then I knew that this was no small gift. She asked me questions. She cared. She had a strong faith. She was a lifeline through a stormy adolescence. The other relationship that stood out for me was with Sr. Doreen. Still, to this day, I call her my first “emotional mother figure.” She had similar qualities as I described in Jackie. Sr. Doreen supported me in a way I had never experienced. She believed in me, celebrated small day-to-day life experiences, and she was a role model that I longed to be. For the first time in my life, I felt really “seen and heard,” truly an essential ingredient to becoming “real,” as the Velveteen Rabbit would say. And yes, there was a certain “magic” in those life-changing influences that both of these relationships had on my future.
Research shows that mentoring works (Ahrens, DuBois, Richardson, Fan, & Lozano, 2008; Cavell, DuBois, Karcher,Keller, & Rhodes, 2009; Rhodes, & DuBois, 2006). In fact, some studies show that mentoring can help in the following ways:
- Academic Achievement: better attendance, more likely to graduate, better attitudes toward school, more likely to go on to higher education
- Health and Safety: prevent substance abuse, lowers engaging in negative, delinquent behaviors
- Social and Emotional Development: better relationships with peers and parents, overall better communication skills, increased self-esteem
Trauma practitioners are mentors, too…
In the spirit of the mentoring relationship, there are many elements of that connection that are similar in the relationships trauma practitioners develop with their clients. I look at the list of gifts that people I talked with said they received from the mentoring relationship. I believe these are gifts that we, as trauma practitioners, cultivate and offer those who experience trauma. We offer hope, inspiration, encouragement, belief in self, comfort/caring, practical support and wisdom. There are certainly similarities between the role of mentor and trauma practitioners. The beauty in all of these relationships is that there is reciprocity in the experience of being mentor and/or clinician. It is in giving that we receive such important ingredients for life, such as a sense of aliveness, contentment, satisfaction, hope and so much more!
Whether it is acknowledging the mentoring work we are already doing or getting further involved in our communities in other mentoring capacities, The National Mentoring Month website identifies many ways to get involved:
- Find local mentoring resources and begin utilizing them.
- Learn about National Mentoring Month.
- Consider becoming a mentor yourself.
- Find ways to partner with local mentoring programs.
- Thank your mentor.
- Make a donation to a local mentoring organization.
- Research and learn about the amazing impact that mentoring can have on the lives and future of youth.
- Jan. 10 is “I am a mentor” day. Do something!
- Jan. 21 – Join Martin Luther King Day of Service. Use this day to highlight the importance of mentoring.
- Learn about the many and varied mentoring relationships – academic, social, etc. – with children and teens.
In honor of National Mentoring Month, I toast and hold up the Jackies and Sr. Doreens of the world who offer themselves and truly make a difference in the lives of others. As I write this, I wonder if they knew how important they were in my life. Perhaps you might be inspired to get involved in your own community, or maybe you will pick up the phone and call someone who made a difference in your life and let them know. Whatever it may be, may we remember, as this year progresses, that whatever we do, we do it with a grateful heart.
“Do stuff, be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on our forehead. Pay attention. It‘s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
– S. Sontag
Carmen Richardson MSW, RSW, RCAT, REAT
Ahrens, K.R., DuBois, D.L., Richardson, L.P., Fan, M.Y., & Lozano, P. (2008). Youth in foster care with adult mentors during adolescence have improved adult outcomes. The online version of this article, along with updated information and services, is located on the World Wide Web at: http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/peds.2007-0508v1
Cavell, T., DuBois, D., Karcher, M., Keller, T., & Rhodes, J. (2009). Strengthening mentoring opportunities for at-risk youth. Policy Brief.
Rhodes, J. E., & DuBois, D. L. (2006). Understanding and facilitating the youth mentoring movement. Social Policy Report, 20(3). Available online at: http://www.srcd.org/documents/publications/spr/ spr20-3.pdf