Mentors can be protective factors for youth
Mentors are dependable adults that can help youth build trust, form new relationships and develop important skills. Mentors are role models for youth that exist outside of the family unit. Mentors can support youth to develop self-awareness, build skills to manage their stress, and learn how to recognize and regulate their emotions. Mentors may also notice changes in a child or teen that others don't see. Mentors can look for early warning signs of bullying, including decreased self-esteem, feeling helpless, self-destructive behaviors, and unexplained injuries.
Mentors can help youth process Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
Bullying is an Adverse Childhood Experience, or "ACE." ACEs are potentially traumatic experiences that can have lasting negative effects on a child's development, social skills, school performance, and overall mental health. Mentoring youth can help heal the effects of ACEs and reverse the negative effects on brain development and learning caused by trauma and toxic stress. Simple activities with a mentee like throwing a baseball can help to rebuild connections in the brain that may have been impacted by ACEs.
Mentors can create a sense of belonging
Mentors can help youth learn to celebrate and honor differences and foster a sense of inclusion. Youth who are perceived by their peers as different due to their size, height, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, mental health, or identifying or being perceived as LGBTQ are at higher-risk for bullying. Youth experiencing transitions, such as military connected youth coping with parental deployments, may struggle to develop close friendships. Mentors can help youth find a place where they feel welcome and safe.
Mentors can provide a safe space
Mentoring youth can let them know they are not alone. Mentors can demonstrate how to have positive relationships and recognize negative behavior, like bullying. They can also help youth find constructive and non-violent ways to interact with their peers, deal with stress, and handle conflict. Mentors can create physically and emotionally safe environments for youth by teaching and modeling kindness, empathy, and positive relationships. Something as simple as listening can help someone affected by bullying.
Mentors can help prevent bullying
Mentoring youth in an area of shared interest, such as arts or sports, provides opportunities for building positive relationships between the youth and the mentor. Coaches can promote an equal team atmosphere which focuses on responsibility, inclusion, team work, and sportsmanship.
How to connect youth with mentors
Youth can be connected to mentors through recreational activities at school and in community organizations, sports leagues, arts programs, clubs, peer, and faith-based groups. Some organizations offer programs that include academics, family engagement, culturally based youth leadership, LBTGQ groups, and one-on-one or group mentoring. Organizations provide mentors for youth, such as those who participated in our October 2019 Twitter Chat (Big Sisters, Big Brothers; Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Esperanza, Inc.; and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership . Each program is unique and each organization's website provides detail. There may be other mentor programs in your community.