Having a mentor through challenging times in a teenager’s personal life can play a positive role in their successful development as an adult. As a mentor, what you do is as important as what you say.

Through mentorship programmes, such as the SAB 18+ Be The Mentor programme, aims to promote harm reduction, reduce underage drinking and contribute to broader change in communities, youth gain self-confidence and improve in attitude and behaviour.

The SAB 18+ Be The Mentor mentorship programme works via its digital mentorship programme (www.bethementor.sab.co.za) and in field activations through SAB’s Smart Drinking Squad (SDS) who give guidance to peer mentors on how to avoid the negative effects of alcohol abuse and underage drinking, as well as support in other aspects of their lives.

HDI Youth Consultancy CEO, Bongani Chinkanda said a good mentor uses their own behaviour to promote learning and positive development in the youngsters they mentor.

“They should focus on the positive and approach challenges from a place of optimism and possibility, all the while keeping an eye out for teachable moments. This means using real-life moments to teach your group of mentees some of the lessons they need to understand.” Take advantage of local resources to cultivate their existing interests.

It is the role of a mentor to encourage their mentee. “This will help them to build self-esteem and self-confidence.”

A mentor should expect to be a positive role model to their mentee, with the majority of the relationship being one-directional, at least to start. “You might see some changes happening if you support your mentee in reaching their goal, but you can also expect to experience frustration when they don’t.”

Chinkanda cautioned mentees not to expect that they would “reform” or “save” their group of mentees, or for immediate trust to form. “Things take time to change, and remember that your goals won’t necessarily mirror your mentees’ goals. Make the effort to schedule meetings and develop plans yourself, because this proactivity might not be a two-way street.” Accept that you might not immediately know about or understand the impact you have made on your mentees’ lives.

All relationships go through stages. The B.E.S.T. (Building, Enhancing, Sustaining and Transitioning) model demonstrates the typical life-cycle of mentor relationships. “These stages are not always clear-cut and frequently overlap. Sometimes, relationships return to an earlier stage and cycle more than once.

STAGE ONE: BUILDING

The first stage of the mentoring life-cycle is building the relationship. Meeting with your mentees, establishing trust, clarifying roles and agreeing on boundaries are all part of this stage. This is also the stage at which you decide how long the mentorship will last; for example, one year or indefinitely.

You and your mentee will both have some anxiety and/or excitement about building this new relationship. Take the initiative to explore mutual interests and find common ground. Because trust is so fragile at this point, it is extremely important to be consistent, authentic and open-minded.

What you do now will set the tone for the rest of the mentoring relationship.

STAGE TWO: ENHANCING

Stage two involves enhancing the mentoring relationship. This means exploring interests in depth, setting goals and offering yourself as a resource to your mentees. The goals you set can be personal in nature.

STAGE THREE: SUSTAINING

In the third stage of the relationship, trust has been established and conversation is more comfortable, personal and open. Working on goals may be a central focus of the relationship. 

While this new level of comfort is wonderful, it may also come with some new challenges. You and your mentees may struggle to live up to the expectations you agreed to at the start of the relationship. If this happens, you may need to re-negotiate the terms of your relationship by evaluating what you have accomplished, what new goals you have, how you would like to work on them together, what problems the mentors may be encountering with their mentees and how these can be solved.

STAGE FOUR: TRANSITIONING

Change can be a scary thing, but it can be made easier by preparing. A good way to prepare for a relationship transition with your mentors is to talk about it. Celebrate how much you have accomplished, and remind your mentors about how much time remains. Part of these discussions should include what you want your relationship to look like once the programme ends.

For those that wish to make the 18+ pledge to be an active mentor, visit www.bethementor.sab.co.za 

Mentor guides are also available on the website for guidance.

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