How do you stop the gun violence in Chicago? A problem stated in this manner appears daunting and unsolvable. How can I provide Jonathan, a local gang member, with a positive role model? When strategically broken down the issue becomes far more manageable. A feeling of hopelessness is a common obstacle that prevents talented adults from ever mentoring youth. This blog addresses the three most common obstacles to mentoring, and offers solutions to overcome each one.
Obstacle 1: People feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems in their community –
Most people have the desire to help their community but find themselves wondering “Where would I even begin?"
One solution to this problem is to find an area of service (e.g. charitable donations, feeding the homeless, community organizing, etc.) and dedicate your efforts to progressing this area. Might I suggest youth mentoring? Mentored youth are more likely to go to college and to hold leadership positions than non-mentored youth. Yet, 16 million youth from ages 8-18 will become adults without ever being mentored formally or informally (mentoring.org). So the next time you feel overwhelmed with the problems of your community, focus on your own concerted efforts to make a difference.
Obstacle 2: Nobody knows how to mentor youth –
Potential mentors are often confused on how to establish an effective mentoring relationship. Some take a stern approach, which often ends up in the child completely tuning the adult out. Others take the cool older sibling approach providing little or no guidance. This often leads to unproductive behavior.
A good way to establish strong mentoring relationships with youth is to provide a variety of activities and discussion topics. Identify things to do by establishing long-term goals (e.g. getting an A in a math class, getting into college, or getting a song on the radio) and creating steps together to complete the goals.
Obstacle 3: Not Enough time –
This by far is the biggest reason professional adults do not mentor youth. The demands of work take a toll on individuals, when trying to excel in their career and maintain a work life balance. By the time we finally feel rested, it’s time to go back to work.
This is not an easy obstacle to overcome but it is possible. Scheduling mentoring sessions months in advance may help alleviate this problem. It decreases the ability of outside responsibilities to interrupt your mentoring commitment. Mentoring activities that are both a stress reliever and mutually beneficial may also be helpful.
Mentoring alone will not stop the violence in Chicago. However, if done correctly, it can contribute to decreasing inequalities in our society. I challenge you to overcome at least one obstacle you face in becoming a mentor, and become a champion for your community today.
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