I’m helping at a girls’ camp this weekend, and as I’ve watched the marvelous women here, helping these teenage girls in our community find their way in life, I am struck again by how vital mentors can be in the lives of our kids- and I’d love to share some ways to help you find a mentor for you child.
Mentors are a fabulous tool in a parent’s toolbox. There are a lot of reasons why, but I’m especially struck by it this week: In our camp we have 16 teenage girls and 7 adult women who are rotating through the week, helping out. We have all kinds of girls and all kinds of women. As I look at the women here, I am amazed at how many gifts are represented. All are women of God, trying to teach the girls to be wise and good. But we also have some who are super fashionable, some who are sporty, some who are more literary, some who specialize in having fun, and I could go on and on.
As I watch the leaders teach life lessons, braid girls’ hair, talk about boys, play games, work with an autistic girl and teach her certain skills, I am amazed at what these girls have access to and how many people love them. In my opinion, we can’t ever have too many people love on our kids.
Sometimes, though it’s hard to find a mentor. (Though you probably have more informal mentors in your children’s lives than you realize!) Most adults don’t wake up in the morning and start looking for someone to teach. Here are a few ways to find someone who might be a good fit for your child:
How to Find a Mentor
(Disclaimer: This is a no-brainer– but please, get to know others first before you trust your children with them!)
1. Find a church and attend it.
Yes, I know that churches are full of flawed people- in fact, that is why I personally attend. I am flawed, and I need all the help I can get! So it would be really silly of me to expect others to be perfect. But in all of our imperfectness, most of us have hearts that really care. This is where youth leaders and pastors come in with weekly activities. There are often also inspiring summer camps for youth as well. And don’t forget loving members of the congregation who help me keep tabs on my kids and teach them in amazing ways. In my congregation, most of these activities are at no cost, and the leaders (mentioned in my girls’ camp experience above), can make a significant difference in a child’s life.
2. Have your child volunteer.
Does your child have an interest they would like to take further? See if they would be able to volunteer for a business or a person who specializes in that area. Even if your child just sweeps the floors, they still hear “shop talk” and often business owners are willing to teach the basics to eager learners. My daughter’s friend did this, and now she is a paid part-time employee, who is getting valuable training and experience in her chosen field- and she’s only 14.
3. Adopt a grandma or grandpa.
Do you have a little old lady on your street that could use help mowing her lawn? What about visiting a senior citizens’ center regularly? Is there an older person who could just use some company? These people often have a LOT of life experience and they can see the best in your kids when you might be struggling to. My brother cleaned out horse stalls for our older neighbor as he was growing up, and this man was able to teach him in a way that touched his heart during a difficult period of time. My parents were incredibly grateful to this man and to this day, my brother still talks about the effect Homer Randall had on him.
4. Sign up your kids for lessons or classes.
Piano teachers, scout leaders, sports coaches, local librarians and others who regularly give classes, can all have a significant impact on our kids. Teach your children to be active learners, ask questions and form healthy relationships with these adults. My children take drama classes for a play they are in, but they learn much more than acting. They are learning confidence and how to receive critical feedback gracefully without it ruining their self worth, from the kindest people imaginable.
5. Get out and help in the community.
How willing are you to be a soccer coach? To help in the schools or to put together community activities? We can’t expect other adults to help our kids if we aren’t willing to make a contribution for others as well. And as we all know, it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know–so get out there, volunteer, and get to know the people in your community! You would be AMAZED at how many awesome people are out there. As you get to know them and their talents, you’ll realize how kind people are- and if they see a sincere interest in their hobby, talent or career, they are usually willing to share it.
A few additional tips for Finding mentors:
- Someone does not need to have the formal title “mentor” in order to make an impact. You probably already have several people who informally teach and help your children already. Recognize them for who they are.
- If you have someone in mind for a mentor, but are nervous to approach them–just ask! You never know what they might say. You can always graciously accept a “No”, but it’s exhilarating when someone says “Yes”!
- Don’t expect a long-term relationship when you find a new mentor. Just take it one day at a time. Few people are willing to take on a long project without knowing if you and they are a good fit.
- Sometimes people need to be in our lives for only a short time, but they can still have a significant impact. Having several different mentors for different times and seasons in our lives can be a very good thing, rather than having only one long term mentor.
- If someone accepts and is willing to help, respect them enough to have your child follow through with the commitments they are asked to make.
- See what you can do on a regular basis for your mentor. No one likes a leech.
- The internet can also provide great mentors! Though less personal, I’ve benefited from taking classes from people like Ralphie and Mark. My life (and my children’s!) are much better because of them.
When we find mentors for our children, we teach our children how to have healthy relationships. We have more people looking out for their welfare, and our children become inspired and taught more perfectly than we could ever do on our own. I am SO grateful for the people in my neighborhood who have loved and taught my children.