5 Ways I Found Youth Mentoring Helpful

5-Ways-I-Found-Youth-Mentoring-Helpful

The idea of having a ‘mentor’ is not always popular among teens. Visions of awkward meetings in sterile environments, where an out-of-touch elder badgers a teen to come up with a 5 year-plan, come to mind.

I am happy to say that those times are far-gone. We now understand that mentoring can help a teen to find a role model and a friend who will help them navigate the challenges of the adolescent years. As someone who has been both the mentored and mentor, I have a great understanding of the rewards that come from a mentoring relationship. Here are five ways mentoring is helpful for your teen.

  1. A mentor is a role model

When I was younger, I thought my mentors were the coolest people that had ever lived. They spent time with me doing the things I enjoyed. They laughed and cried with me and they always seemed to just ‘get it’. I wanted to be just like my mentors when I grew up.

Now, having been a mentor to many young people, I understand that what I found in my mentors was a role model. They gave me ‘unconditional positive regard’­—they never stopped believing in me and always encouraged me to reach my potential.

I also observed the way they handled situations, and through this learned about integrity and what confidence looked like. This has allowed me to develop confidence as I grew up.

  1. You are supported as a parent

Parents often say to me that their teen doesn’t seem to listen to their advice. Well, Mum or Dad, you’re not alone. It is really normal for parents to feel like this and for a young person to be somewhat resistant to their parent’s advice.

When a teen hits puberty they get confused and frustrated very easily. More often then not, teens will begin to value the advice given by peers or the media more then yours, simply due to the stage of growth they are in.

With a mentor you can stress less. They often become a voice of reason amongst the chaos, and your teen will generally be more open to their advice. I have been the recipient of many texts and phone calls from young people, who have asked for support in talking to their parents about what they are experiencing.

Rest in the knowledge that your teen’s mentor supports you as a parent. They will keep what your teen says to them in confidence, and if their safety is at risk, you will be the first to know about it.

  1. Your teen feels understood and valued

A youth mentor will engage with your teen in a comfortable environment. Whether that be in a room with some comfy couches, at the basketball court, or having a chat and coffee, a mentor will always aim for your child to feel secure when they meet.

The goal is to spend quality time with your teen in a setting where they will feel most at ease, whilst also creating opportunity for them to talk if they desire to. This approach allows a teen to feel valued and understood, as the mentor aims to specifically cater for their interests.

You may not hear much feedback from your teen as to what was discussed at a mentoring session, but you will hear something along the lines of, ‘we had a kick of the footy’, or ‘we listened to some music’ or ‘we went to this cool café’’. Connection is built through activity and spending time together. You can be sure that something of importance happened during that mentoring session and that it lead to your child feeling understood and valued as an individual.

  1. Your teen has another ‘safe’ person

A ‘safe’ person is someone that your teen feels able to talk with about whatever they are facing. A safe person knows how to handle crisis situations and is able to provide comfort, advice, encouragement and support, appropriate to your teen.

In a world where young people are significantly lacking in face-to-face connection, a safe person is essential in order for your teen to make positive choices and find the help they need.

  1. Your teen is able to set goals

During my teen years, many people told me what I should or shouldn’t do. After awhile it all got pretty confusing. I became stuck in a rut, feeling like I wasn’t able to do well at anything, even if I dared to try. Having my mentor come alongside and help me to identify what goals I could achieve was a Godsend. Together, we discussed the different options I had and what steps I needed to take to fulfill them.

This meant I felt empowered to make positive choices. Instead of feeling like a failure when I made a mistake, I knew my mentor supported me unconditionally and would encourage me to try again. A youth mentor wants your teen to thrive and become a fulfilled, giving member of society, and they will do all they can to help them to fulfill their potential.

Are you concerned about your young person? Would you like your teen to be mentored? Here’s what you need to do: Contact Rachel on 0422 177 193 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how she can best help you or book online now.

How to Teach Your Teenager to Say ‘No’

How to Teach Your Teenager to Say ‘No’From family pressures and work commitments to relationship issues, it can be hard to say no. Over the past month we have talked about the importance of drawing your boundaries. From the practical “5 Ways To Say No” to a look at how our family of origin affects us in, “How Does Our Childhood Affect Our Ability To Say No?” we have explored about why so many of us struggle to utter the word “No.” Today we conclude our series by offering some insight in how to speak to your teenager about drawing boundaries. The adolescent years are filled with peer pressure and opportunities your young person may be unsure how to navigate. Here are some practical tips you can offer them as they learn how to say no.

When it comes to

Alcohol and drugs (when ALL your friends are doing it)

If the weight of peer pressure is heavy, make a point of letting at least one other friend know that you do not do drugs or alcohol, and ask them to support you should you need the back up. Anticipating the situation will allow you to feel prepared and more confident. You might like to write down all the reasons why you choose to say no and read them to a trusted friend. Practice in front of the mirror: Say quite firmly and deliberately, “No thanks, tonight I would really like to have …….” Notice how you feel as you say this.

When it comes to

Sex (when you're NOT ready but your partner is)

Your body is your own and ultimately no one else has the right or authority to demand or take sex without your permission. It can feel awkward or even scary to say ‘no,’ however doing this is your way of saying that you value and respect yourself. It is okay to say, “I’m not ready to have sex.” You do not have to apologise or feel guilty for a decision that is rightfully yours to make. You might like to reflect upon the fears you have around the consequences of saying no. Rejection and guilt are powerful because they are feelings experienced in your body. Recognise these feelings as they have the power to manipulate your integrity. If your partner is not ‘cool’ with your response, recognise that this is their issue, not yours.

When it comes to

Buying something totally ridiculous and expensive

Be firm with yourself. Remind yourself that the feeling of happiness you get from this initial purchase will disappear very quickly. This litmus test: Leave the item on the shelf, and give yourself a day or more to decide how much you really want and/or need the item. I have used this strategy numerous times and have discovered that I will forget about the item. If a friend is putting pressure on you to buy, a gentle but also firm and honest response like, “It is lovely however I have a budget, so I’ll give this a miss.”

When it comes to

Breaking up

I am not sure that there is ever an easy way to let someone down gently, because their feelings have been invested in the relationship just as yours have. However, being kind but honest and upfront is important to ensure that there is no miscommunication.

When it comes to

Over-commitment

Is there an easier way to say “no” to that extra class/social event/internship you just don't have time for without feeling SUPER-guilty? “I’m sorry. I can't do this right now” is a very valid and respectful response. If you are further pursued, reply that it doesn’t fit with your schedule, and change the subject. Many of us find it difficult to say no when we are put on the spot, so practice saying, “Let me go away and think about it and I will let you know.” This ensures that you are not pressured into saying ‘yes’ when you mean to say ‘no’ and you can prepare yourself beforehand. Remember that each time you say yes to someone or something else, you say no to you and your priorities.

When they won’t take no for an answer?

If someone won’t take no for an answer and you have repeated this, you have the choice of walking away from that relationship or possibly garnering additional support from another trusted friend to reinforce your ‘no’. Remember that another person’s unwillingness to accept your no does not make it invalid.

What are the benefits of learning to stand your ground and say no?

Every time you find the courage to say no it is like exercising a muscle that needs stretching and strengthening. It feels difficult and painful because your ‘no’ muscle is under-developed. You just need to give it time to get stronger so that it is easier to say and it will in time, providing that you practice. Over time you will

  • Feel stronger and more grounded.
  • Identify who you are, what you want and what makes you happy.
  • Be more confident to express your own opinions and be your own
  • Have more time to say ‘yes’ to the things that really make you happy
  • Reduce stress
  • Have more energy

Being able to identify your needs and be an advocate for your own needs is absolutely essential to your health and wellbeing as you age. Where a person fails to learn this skill in younger years, self- confidence disappears, unhappiness and feelings of stress and anxiety increases and the physical body becomes unwell in response.

Learning to say no is a life skill not to be minimised. Taking the time to start practicing it today is an investment not just for the present but also for your future health.

Do you struggle to say no? Maybe your teenager needs support as they figure out how to draw their own boundaries? Then here’s what you need to do; contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

Self Harm and Cutting: 7 Ways To Help a Young Person Who is Self Harming

 One of my greatest challenges of being a parent was ‘letting go' of my children. Right from the moment they began to cautiously make their first steps I  experienced  anxiety at a new level. The environment suddenly became a minefield of potential dangers to my vulnerable children. Do I need supporting evidence? There was that day when my 18 month old daughter pulled the television and the supporting cabinet beneath it, over, landing on top of her little body (thankfully there were no broken bones) and the day that her 2 year old sister almost drowned herself when, in a moment of unbridled excitement  she headed straight into the water with no knowledge of how swiftly the ground dropped beneath her feet (she still survives). Need I go on? From the moment my children learnt to walk, I felt like my heart had grown arms and legs and was happily engaged in exploring the world outside my body. Of course, you know that this is the way it should be but it doesn't prevent you from going on the emotional roller-coaster ride that having children takes you on. Your instinct and priority as a parent, is to protect your children from all potential harm. What do you do then, when you realize that your young person is harming themselves? How do you feel? Angry? Helpless? Anxious? Your own children may be adults with their own lives now however you may know other young people who are going through this.

Unfortunately, self-harm is not uncommon, especially among our young people, and the more you know about what is helpful and what is not helpful, the better your support will be. So let's have a talk about the issue of self-harm and strategies to deal with it.

 

What is Self Harm?

 
Self-harming behaviors are acts of doing intentional harm to your body and include cutting, burning, biting, and scratching. There are conflicting views on what is and isn't self harm. For instance, are eating disorders acts of self-harm,  or would you consider body piercing self-harm? My personal view is that any behavior that has a negative impact on the body and is intentionally acted upon is a form of self-harm. 
 
Self-harming behavior has the power to confront you in ways that few other things might. You may be feeling angry, helpless, anxious, overwhelmed, sad or all of the above. In my own experience, I was terrified of losing my young person and, feeling helpless to ‘fix' it, I swiftly became depressed which actually had the effect of amplifying my young persons self-harming behavior further. 
 

How can you help your young person? 

 
1. Try not to overreact. Self harm behavior is often initiated by stress, anxiety and /or conflict in a person's life and by overreacting you can increase these unwelcome feelings and unwittingly exacerbate the need your child feels to harm themselves. Remember that self-harming behavior does not imply that they are suicidal.
 
2. Understand that self harm is not “attention-seeking” behavior but a genuine cry for help and needs to be taken seriously. ‘Just ignore it and it will go away' will not work in this circumstance.
 
3. Attend to your own emotions, so that you can be present to your young person  without judgement, blame, anger or anxiety. Take the time to see a Counsellor so that you can talk about your own feelings and ‘contain' what you feel when you are with your young person.
 
4. Be attentive and available to your young person. Understand that they may not feel ready to talk to you when you want them to talk. Try to be sensitive to them and understand that they are experiencing enormous emotional pain. They do not have the coping ability to deal with your own anxiety or frustration. 
 
5. Encourage them to get help from a helpline, or a qualified doctor or counsellor. These helping professionals have the skills to help your young person. Often a young person needs to talk to someone other than family and friends.   This is not a reflection on your inability to understand them or their rejection of you, but a need for your young person to be able to explore their own experience without feeling embarrassed or ashamed and in a confidential and objective context.
 
6. Self harm is not something that your young person can ‘just stop' doing. Self harm behavior is triggered by a variety of stressors including stressful situations, depression, self-hatred, and unresolved past issues. It can take a person a long time to overcome the need to self harm.
 
7. If your young person does hurt themselves seriously, contain your own emotional response – in particular anger, blame or frustration. Respond with first-aid and if necessary get medical help immediately.
 
It is not always obvious that a young person is self-harming and it is a difficult and confronting conversation to have. In a following  article I  talk about some of the signs that may indicate a young person is self-harming.
 
If you would like to know more about how to help a young person who is vulnerable to self harm  or need support yourself contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.