|Posted by ajoyfulplace on November 29, 2015 at 9:55 AM|
Supporting young people.
I want to share some thoughts with you about supporting young people as you begin your journey as mentors. There are two points I want to start with- one is the importance of simply spending time with the mentees and listening to them before trying to move in with activities and exercises for them to do. The other is the value of what may look like casual activities and how to use them to build the skills we assess as important.
We need to keep in mind that most of these young people have not had anyone simply sitting and listening to them as they process their thoughts, have dreams and goals and be aware of themselves. They have probably had adults telling them what to think, what to do and how to do it for almost all of their lives. Having someone ask them what they think and then sit quietly and listen and encourage them to keep talking will be a huge contradiction for them that will allow them to process their thoughts.
The human mind processes thoughts better when they are given this opportunity to use another human's listening mind than when they are bombarded with questions and lectures and someone telling them what to do and how to do it. Keep in mind that humans learn by thinking and doing rather then by being told and having someone do it for them.
What you can do-:
1. Keep practising your own listening skills; especially giving up that urge to interrupt and tell the listenee what you think and what it was like for you. It is normal for you to be tempted by the thought that you are the adult, you have the experience of live, you know better than the mentee. And all of that may be true at some level. But at this time the mentee cannot take that in; their own thoughts and needs will block them from hearing what you are saying. There will come a time when it may be useful for them to hear what you have to say, but make sure the time is right and that you do it in a way that does not close them off.
2. Keep working on giving up the urge and anxiety you carry (and yes we all carry it) to 'fix' them right away, or to make them into something that you think they should be, rather than allowing them to be who they can be. This is a tough one that you need to work a lot on.
3. Remember that the time you spend listening to your mentee and guiding him/her through such thought processing is valuable and worth more in the long run than trying to hurry them into a certain direction. They will be much better able to hear your suggestions when you are ready to offer them, and to follow your guidance if they have had this chance to clear their own minds. It is okay if you spend the first couple of weeks focusing on these listening skills.
Here is something I wrote in response to a query that may help you: My suggestion is that before you try to find activities and things to do with the mentee to meet a goal, you should spend some time with him clarifying what exactly is the goal. Spend some time talking with him about-:
what exactly is he hoping to see happen?
what does it mean to him to have better common sense?
How will he know when he has it?
How can both of you together break down the goal into smaller steps?
It sounds like there is much discussion that could take place first for both of you to be clear and to have the same understanding of what he wants to achieve. Then you would better be able to find ways to help him achieve that.
Also keep in mind that doing many of the activities that you have on the suggested list will contribute to such things as building common sense (whatever that is, ) and other skills. The activity does not necessarily have to be titled that for it to be used to build such skills. It is in how you use it.
Following on from the idea of listening to the mentees is the value of the time spent with them in what may seem like casual activities. This is an extension of the listening and of letting the mentee know that you are supporting him/her. It is not so much the activity itself but how you carry it out and the attitude that you bring to it that will make a difference to the mentee. You can teach many skills during any activity if done right. Let's take any of the activites on the handout you were given- write a story together. Make a collage that illustrates the mentee’s values or goals. Research some interesting or unusual careers. Make a mentoring journal about your time together. Play Hangman (or some other pencil and paper game).
While doing any of these activities you can be -:
encouraging your mentee to talk about himself, share his dreams and goals and demonstrating your listening skills; using appropriate questions to help them to express themselves .
Validating the mentee and solidifying your support.
Helping him to make good decisions.
Helping him to think about how to build relationships.
Helping him to notice his own potential and be motivated to build on it.
Can you see how the time you spend which may seem casual, doing any one of these activities will be meaningful and useful for developing skills and helping the mentee grow if you bring the right attitude to it?
I want to encourage you therefore, at least for the beginning, do not be anxious about 'doing' structured activities such as work sheets with your mentees, or having written things to prove that you did something with your mentee. If you are concerned about results try doing the EQ test for young people with them at the beginning and then re-do about a month later and see the difference. Do not expect them to produce results after one session with them. Be mindful of where they are in their life process and what they need to first of all clear out before they can replace with positive attitudes, goals etc.
Any time you spend with them, as long as you bring a positive, supportive, validating attitude and tone will make a difference to them.