Evidence | September 21st, 2022
What does it take to be an awesome volunteer youth mentor? Here's what Upside has discovered!
Bottom line is, a volunteer youth mentor is someone who cares, and who is willing to be a positive role model to a young person. They are not necessarily teachers, parents or qualified youth workers, just someone who through being themselves, gets to have a positive influence on someone younger.
A volunteer youth mentor has a caring heart for the young people in their lives. They are able to empathise with their young person’s hardships, and to be there for them when they look for guidance or support.
Being consistent, and showing up when you say you will, is essential. This is something that often surprises our young people. And it’s often the thing that starts them realising that they are valuable, loveable and worthwhile enough for you to keep showing up.
A good volunteer youth mentor is open-minded enough to listen to young people’s opinions and thoughts without judging them or telling them they're wrong. They've learned that each child has something unique to offer, and they're open to learning more about the child's world through their eyes.
Having an open mind also allows them to see things from another perspective. This is helpful when working with young people with behaviours or issues that can make them difficult to relate to at times.
Volunteer youth mentors are excellent listeners because they want to know what their young people have to say about things going on in their lives. They want to learn more about the challenges that young people face, so they can help them to find a way forward.
An important aspect of being a successful volunteer mentor is being able to put yourself in your young person's shoes; to imagine what it's like for them, and to understand how they feel.
A mentor who empathises can help their young person make sense of their experiences, and to positively come through any tough times.
Good volunteer youth mentors have a great deal of patience. If needed, they will give their young people space - even if it means waiting weeks or months, depending on how long it takes the young person to build trust and open up.
They also understand that not every young person will respond well to being pushed into something they aren't ready for or don't want to share, so they are respectful of those boundaries while still remaining close.
Some of the best volunteer youth mentors are creative. They're able to think outside the box to find the fun in any activity, and to discover new ways to engage their young people.
They also don't just tell them what to do — they encourage them to think for themselves, and to make suggestions; to also be creative in making plans or solving problems.
Volunteer youth mentors know how important it is to build strong relationships with others, and to feel well connected, to accomplish things in life. They use their interpersonal skills as tools when dealing with people, because they realise how much more effective they can be when communicating effectively with others.
The most effective volunteer youth mentors can effectively communicate with their young people in both verbal and nonverbal ways. They can also adapt their approach based on the needs of their young person, and engage in one-on-one conversations about issues that may be affecting them, or about life in general.
A great volunteer youth mentor has a genuine interest in the young person's life. They're curious about what their young person is up to and take an active role in helping them to succeed. They also instil in their young person the idea that there are other things available to them, opening up opportunities to learn from all their experiences together.
They have a great sense of humour, and don’t mind being a little goofy. Volunteer youth mentors are able to laugh at themselves and their mistakes. They have a well developed feel for the funny, and enjoy laughter. This helps them connect with their young people and to make them feel comfortable and relaxed enough to be themselves, to lower their masks, and to enjoy life.
As a volunteer youth mentor, it's important to have acceptance for diversity and differences. Many young people come from backgrounds different from yours, and may be confused about their place in the world. The best way to help them is to acknowledge those differences and to be open to discussing them.
Mentors who respect diversity can prepare young people for the future by exposing them to cultures and ideas they would not normally encounter in their own communities or families.
So the next question we pose to you is, how will you inspire the next generation? Are you able to consistently spare a couple of hours a week to make time for them? Are you ready to connect, to have some fun, and to be an awesome human being!?
When you develop a relationship with these incredible young people, and see them blossom from your mentoring, your gift of time will reward you over and over again.
To find out what's involved in signing up to be a volunteer mentor head over here.