I grew up in a time, when it was totally fine to be a “latch key” kid for several hours a day. Growing up as the oldest of two of immigrant self employed parents, there were times when I did not see my parents a lot. I grew up with a lot of autonomy, independence, and responsibilities. I probably could have used some parental guidance too, especially as a teen.
Thankfully, there were no probation officers involved, trips to the ER, or regretful experimenting. What I did notice was that I spent a lot of time on the phone, just talking. Talking to friends that I had just seen at school, and friends who I no longer saw in class. As I began driving, I got to enjoy spending time at my friends’ houses. Often I would enjoy interacting with the parents, parents who spoke English, parents who went to college, parents who I thought were sooo coool. At the same time I also began to look up the youth leaders at my church, often college kids who I also thought were really cool. There were also favorite teachers, and other adult figures (parental figures) that had an influence on my upbringing.
In my adulthood as fresh out of school clinical social worker working in urban public schools or with “at-risk-kids” I got to be a part of the lives of kids who had a very different life than I did, but at the same time they were looking for someone they could count on, listen and understand them, advocate for them, and share laughs with– not so different than what I longed for as a teen.
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and despite the various “advantages” or “disadvantages” of certain types of families and homes, children, teenagers, and young adults all need a variety of molding hands to shape character, build up self esteem, or uncover individual strengths and talents. Sometimes a variety of people fill these roles, uncles/aunts, teachers, step parents, youth leaders, coaches, older cousins, etc. These mentors, whether consciously or unconsciously, end up playing important roles at any given moment during a child’s life. Big Brother and Big Sister is a just one well-known non-profit agency that mentors youth based on this same premise of the importance of mentorship in young people’s lives.
Often times, families seek out counseling reactively to something their child did or is not doing. What if your child’s appointment with a therapist was viewed as checking in with a mentor. Much of my time in working with youth is building rapport, developing trust, and listening to how I can support their concerns and worries, while meeting with parents and understanding what their concerns and fears are. It takes more than just “good parenting” to raise children, it truly takes various individuals to mentor kids, and to affirm parents that “everything is going to be okay.”
Can you identify your child’s mentor(s)? What roles does that mentor(s) play in your child’s life?
Perhaps, your child is lacking in mentor(s), and if so what will you do about it?
photo credit: rajatbansal