Programs for Struggling Teens: Mentoring Programs This Emotional Life - PBS

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Adolescence / Blog

 Frederic Reamer Ph.D.

Frederic Reamer Ph.D.'s Bio

Dr. Reamer is a professor in the Graduate Social Work Program at Rhode Island College.

Programs for Struggling Teens: Mentoring Programs


Mentoring programs provide struggling adolescents with trained, caring adults who provide teens with support, guidance, advice, and friendship.  Mentoring programs encourage teens to stay focused on their education; provide support during crises; offer constructive ways to spend free time; and expose teens to career paths and options.  Mentors seek to enhance, but not replace, the roles of parents, guardians, and teachers.  Mentors and teens may begin their relationships by participating in a variety of activities.  Depending on the type of mentoring program – and the program’s rules and regulations – a mentoring pair may begin getting to know each other by going to a local gym, playground, museum, restaurant, athletic event, or rock concert.  Mentors and mentees might also meet at the child’s school once a week, where they might talk or work on schoolwork together.

Research on mentoring programs indicates that youths are most likely to benefit from mentoring that occurs in the home or community, as opposed to schools.  Also, the most positive outcomes are associated with programs that train mentors on an ongoing basis; provide structured activities for the mentor and mentee; encourage parent support and involvement; recruit mentors with a helping background (such as teachers, counselors, social workers); provide support groups for mentors; and include a self-monitoring component.

An Example of a Mentoring Program

The “Youth Mentoring Program” (YMP) is sponsored by a local family services agency.  The program matches teens with adult volunteers of similar gender, ethnicity, and cultural background.  Through weekly groups, monthly activities, and the mentoring relationship, adolescent boys and girls develop a sense of culture and identity along with responsibility for their community.  The core YMP goal is to provide meaningful ongoing relationships that expose youths to significant educational, social, and cultural opportunities; increase self-esteem; and foster positive behavioral changes.  Mentors may choose to participate in monthly group activities as part of their time requirements or may choose to meet separately with their mentee.  Mentors are included in group programming, family sessions, and often, on home visits conducted by caseworkers and social workers.  Volunteers commit at least four hours per month to work with teens.