You may be asking yourself, do I have what it takes to be a youth mentor? The answer is…of course you do! We all have unique experiences and qualifications to share with youth. The Youth Squad Program is self-guided, so get to know your youth or group of youths so you can tailor the program to their needs and talents.
Maybe you have only really interacted with your own children, or you are an amazing non-parent volunteer. Even so, you already have all the skills you need to make a positive difference in a child’s life. Below are 5 tips for mentoring kids to get you started.
1-Be A Good Listener
In many interactions that a child has with adults, they are not listened to or taken seriously by the adult. Take the time to show your mentee that you are genuinely listening to them by doing things like making eye contact, getting down to their level, and nodding and smiling appropriately during the conversation. You may be surprised at how much a quiet child will open up when they feel like you care about what they have to say.
Along with number one, asking engaging questions can be a great way to show that you are listening and are taking their ideas seriously. Ask leading, open-ended questions to encourage more conversation. Even though you are the mentor, letting the youth guide the conversation is another great way to empower them to have confidence when interacting with adults.
3-Lead by Example
Kids are always watching you. Even when it seems their attention is engaged elsewhere. They are always hearing, seeing, and remembering what you are doing. Anytime you are around your group, be sure you are speaking, and acting, in a way you want your youths to emulate. We learn by watching the people around us, even as adults. So try to be a good example for everyone around you, especially when it comes to young people. Be aware of your reactions and interactions while with and around your youths.
4-Set Realistic Goals
When you get down to the nitty-gritty of being a “mentor”, this is what it’s all about. Is your mentee’s goal to earn a Youth Squad patch? Is it to raise their GPA? Maybe they want to become and Eagle Scout or earn their Girl Scout Gold Award*. Learn about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and write them down with your youth. You may even ask them if they use a planner or an app to keep up with school work, and use this in their goal-setting. Check in with them regularly and follow through. You may have to push sometimes to keep them going, or even re-evaluate their goals to make them attainable. But completing the goal or goals that they chose will help your mentee feel accomplished, and ready to tackle the next life challenge they face.
5-“You’re Not My Mom!”
One of the most positive things a youth can gain from a mentorship program is a non-related adult mentor/role model. When you are mentoring kids you are not a parent or a substitute parent, nor are you a buddy/friend/pal. This can be a hard line to walk, but it is important for your mentee to have you as a trusted adult in their lives. And you may even find unexpected benefits for yourself from being a mentor. As an adult, you are of course responsible for the health and safety of the youths you mentor. But pulling back and letting them push boundaries, step out of their comfort zones, and discover their own limits will help them see you as a true mentor.
I hope you found these tips for mentoring kids helpful. Do you have any suggestions that have worked for you when working with youths? Please share them with us in the comments!
*youthsquad.makingfriends.com and MakingFriends®.com are not affiliated with, endorsed by or a licensee of Girl Scouts of the USA.