Mentoring – Part 3: Understanding youth development in mentoring

Successful mentoring relationships are linked to positive youth outcomes. This article helps mentors understand how they can support positive youth development.

Mentors have the potential to assist young people as they move through developmental stages and address difficulties they encounter along the way. Gaining a basic understanding of youth development principles and theories will help prepare mentors for this important task. Michigan State University Extension recently released the Ready to Go: Mentor Training Tool Kit which provides 56 activities that mentoring programs can use in training to assist mentoring programs in building mentor skills. In Module 4: Youth Development, activities help mentors find ways to support young people and positively impacting their development. Tips from this module include:

  1. What is important in a young person’s life is often different from what’s important in our adult lives. This is helpful to remember when working with young people especially when you might feel like you’re not getting through to them. Their priorities are different from ours, and they may not be thinking in terms of the big picture yet.
  2. Youth are best served when adults focus on building upon strengths versus concentrating on a young person’s weaknesses.
  3. Young people build skills and competencies based on experiences and relationships. Little things you do can help your mentee develop confidence and character
  4. Young people tend to learn and retain information better when there is action involved in the teaching process. The Experiential Learning Model can help you find ways to turn your mentoring visits into learning experiences.
  5. Some choices mentees make may not be ones that mentors see as the best for the situation. As a mentor, you need not be the police for your mentee, forcing him to make decisions you approve of. Instead, help your mentee think through a situation so he can make a decision on his own. Mentors don’t have to support the mentees’ decisions, but they do need to support their right to make their own decisions.

Mentoring is a process and not a destination. Enjoy the process and seek support from program staff when needed. You are sure to make a difference in the life of a young person and you will probably experience more benefits than you can imagine. For more mentoring tips, read the rest of this series.

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