Mentoring is an underrated source of healing, connection, and proactive problem-solving.
When it comes to difficult life events (even those that are legitimately traumatic,) relationships and connections make the difference between someone healing and someone living life through that hurt. In fact, most of the world was connected through communities and villages until the more modern nuclear family was developed. During those times, there was a natural environment of looking up to one another, leaning on one another, and coaching one another in a way that does not naturally evolve anymore. That is, unless you are fortunate enough to have a family of generations in home or a friendship circle that you see in the movies and sitcoms.
Mentoring for adolescents is particularly important. Teenage transition is tough enough alone, but with social media, bullying, school shootings, drugs, etc., teenagers have a lot of life choices to make that can change their course entirely.
Mentors, like therapists, can provide a teenager a place to ask the questions they might not feel comfortable asking a friend or a parent. They can be a sounding board for navigating maturing relationships, body image, and, frankly, identity. In the best situation, mentors are another supportive person when life feels shaky, and in the worst situation, a mentor is the only person that really cares or invests time in that teenager. That might sound dramatic, but it is absolutely true.
If you research the impact of a mentor, an hour a week feels like nothing for what it can do for someone with few resources or relationships. But it goes beyond teenagers and youth.
What about us moms?
We are navigating challenging, new, and confusing circumstances on the regular. We are trying to figure out how the hospital let us come home with a newborn. We are trying to understand why our kids won’t stop yelling, biting, melting down, talking back, throwing things, you name it. We are helping with school choices, broken hearts, feeling left out, failing grades, and high school drama as if it were our own all over again. We don’t know how to do these things, but we fake it until we make it. We play the part so that our neighbors think we know what we are doing even though every one of us is questioning our decisions and advice nightly.
But why are we so alone? What happened to our village of moms, grandmas, and aunts? For that matter, our dads, grandpas, and uncles, too. Why don’t we have parent mentors?!
I propose that we consider mentoring for parents; it is the hardest job in the world. Let’s rebuild the mom community of the old village. Let’s lean on one another and turn to the more seasoned moms when we are struggling. Let’s not pretend we know or can do it all. Let’s normalize asking questions and not being social-media-perfect.
Who do you know that matches your parenting style? Do you know anyone that you admire as a parent? Is there anyone that you imagine when making tough decisions? Do you think of a parent that has the kids you hope your kids turn out like? Talk to that parent. You must take the first step. Tell that parent that you feel they have strong parenting skills (what parent wouldn’t want to hear that?). But you have to take the first step.
Next, set up a regular meeting schedule that works for both of you and is something you’ll be able to maintain. Don’t do it weekly if you are too busy for that. Maybe you meet for coffee on the first Sunday of the month and add a little self-care in the mix too. Or maybe you meet virtually on a lunch hour. It does not have to look the same every time or like anyone else’s meeting.
Then, set up some goals for yourself. What do you want to work on as a parent? Or, where would you like to grow? Consider your parenting strengths and how they might be utilized as well. What might be useful to talk through with your parenting mentor? Lofty goals are fine, but only if you break them down into manageable steps.
Let’s make parenting mentors normal. Let’s find comfort in one another. Let’s move away from mom competition and into mutual support. Where are you going to start?