There are a number of group programs offered by the network members designed to provide young people with positive adults in a variety of different ways. After-school programs often take place at schools and community centres and need adult volunteers to help supervise large numbers of youth, offer transportation to field trips, and help prepare snacks. Some of these volunteers will connect with youth, and youth will feel positively impacted through their interactions.
For many families, youth can discover informal mentors through extra-curricular activities such as sports and the arts. Youth claim mentors in their lives when they feel an adult provides a deep layer of personal understanding, inspiration, empathy and curiosity in them. Many adults can think back to a particular teacher they had growing up who took a special interest in making sure they were doing well at home and had someone to talk to, even if they weren’t part of a formal mentoring program. But, for other young people it can be harder to find that special mentor, and that is where formal mentoring opportunities can help. Formal mentoring programs recruit, screen, train and coach volunteers to develop mentoring relationships with youth in their programs. In some cases, paid mentors work inside a program to support youth with specialized one on one attention.
Finding the right one to one mentor for yourself, your child, or a child you care for may involve spending time in a group program first, enrolling onto a waiting list, or working with program staff to identify people in your child’s life who you might like to nominate as a mentor.
Other considerations involve the young person’s specific circumstances and needs:
* access to transportation or transportation barriers may require looking for nearby site-based programs or programs where the mentor provides the transportation
* are you able to make a commitment to spend a few hours every week for a year or longer, or do you think a shorter commitment would be a better start?
* do you have specific needs or preferences in the type of mentor you are looking for? Someone who shares your cultural background or has specific skills?
* do you want a lot of family involvement with a potential mentor?
* do you have the financial ability to contribute to a mentoring relationship or do you require a free option?
* do you require a program to intensively supervise and monitor the relationship?
* do you want a more academic/tutoring focus?
* are you interested in mentoring through an organization that specifically works with your community, such as a newcomer re-settlement organization or an Indigenous organization?
* do you need support immediately or are you in a position to wait for the right mentor?
Mentoring involves a relationship between a more experienced person and a less experienced person. It involves providing time, attention, activities, and conversation; all interactions crucial to the younger, developing mind.
Who we are as individuals is influenced by a number of social factors, including both adverse and positive experiences. Some stress is important, but too much stress and uncertainty can create toxic stress and become a barrier to mental, emotional and physical health. Over time, research on human development has helped us understand the assets and the risks required to thrive; to become a person who can keep going in the face of challenging times, and often accomplish remarkable things in the face of hardship.
Decades of research now shows that social relationships are crucial for our health, not only as young people, but throughout our entire life. The support of our friendships, parents, partners, and mentors help us nurture the strength to overcome adversities and make choices that positively influence the future.
We are gaining more knowledge all the time that mental health issues, addiction, and conduct issues almost always trace back to people who have not had the privileges of social belonging or a feeling of mastery. These two fundamental domains – of feeling like part of a group, and have a particular skill and ability to share with others are the cornerstones of health.
If you are seeking a mentor for yourself or your child, you are steps away from making an incredibly powerful decision.
There are many different types of mentoring relationships! Just like your own friendships, some of them revolve around doing a particular activity together or talking about certain topics. Mentoring is both playful and purposeful. It involves playing, talking, and learning…and while each are unique, research shows a few trends.
The playful start to a relationship is critical for younger children. Play is the way they learn best, connect most quickly, and integrate experiences into brain development. If your child is between 6 and 12, finding a program that focuses on this form of developmental mentoring may be something younger children can get excited about.
It is very important that children want to have a mentoring relationship. They are the ones the relationship is focused on, and they are the ones spending the time with the mentor. If you are introducing the concept of mentoring to your child ensure you are talking about it like a friendship – a buddy, and a special friend who your child can do new activities with.
It is important that mentoring is never described as a way to fix a problem or to make a child ‘better.’
Although mentoring can be growth-enhancing, it is not corrective.
Mentoring, at its best, ignites a young person’s potential, connects them to opportunities that they may benefit from or be lacking, and allows them to be the best version of themselves they have the capacity to be.
Of course, when children grow up through adolescence their desire to spend time with adults can take a turn (or at least, we think so). Even when teens pull away, their need for relationships continue.
Teens are exploring independence and often breaking away from adult-child time in favour of spending time with peers. Expanding their circles of relationships is often a means to enhance the number of interactive, face to face experiences during a stage of increased social learning. This can be an exciting and also risky time for youth and can be a challenging time for parents.
Sometimes, youth are isolated and lonely and lack the peer connections they desire but can still be enticed to form relationships focused on meeting their own identified interests and needs.
Mentoring older youth requires an adult who can really adjust and respond to being what their mentee needs them to be at the time. Often, teens will be more intrigued by a relationship that offers them something very specific and tangible – such as skill development. Many mentors find youth in this stage incredibly rewarding to spend time with.
Youth in this stage can really benefit from a connection with an adult mentor who can challenge them to stay in school, tap into their political beliefs, and really encourage their teen mentee to be an advocate for change in the world. Adolescence can be a time when may teens have big dreams but may be experiencing systemic barriers, and real challenges. At this stage they are really wanting to be understood by others.
Mentors who can be advocates, who can empathize with a young person’s social circumstances and location and also provide encouragement and advice can play a pivotal role in how the teen moves forward into adulthood. Helping older youth prepare resumes, find summer jobs, or even identifying career options are important tasks in these kind of instrumental relationships.
Please fill out the form below and we will get back to you with options. If you’d rather chat with us online please visit our Facebook Page and send us a message through Facebook Messenger. We will be happy to assist you with finding programs. If you’re still not quite ready, like our Facebook Page so you can be the first to receive news and information about all the various options and partner programs.