November 2020 – Reassurance by Katie Reynolds
A wise man once said to me, ‘The difference between working with children and teenagers is: children want to know “am I awesome?” and teenagers want to know “am I normal?”
The answer to children is, of course, yes – you are awesome! Actually, we are all awesome in so many ways and maybe we need to be reminded of that whatever our age and stage of life?
The answer to teenagers is, yes, you are normal, everyone has their doubts and questions and wonders if they are the only one that feels that way they do. Teenagers have so many questions about life, how they feel, what they think, and it is ‘normal’ to feel whatever it is they are feeling. Being a teenager is like a journey into the unknown, it is about discovering who they are, their likes and dislikes, what is important to them and why. All this is normal.
One of the things teenagers need from adults around them is reassurance. They need to be reassured that they are normal, to be reassured that it’s OK to wonder if they are normal and if they are the only one that is thinking or feeling something. I’m sure we can all think of a time when we just needed someone to reassure us and the difference it made at that moment. We all have those times when we need someone to tell us that somehow, in the end, it will all be OK, that we can get through this and that someone believes in us.
Initially it might not sound like a big life changing concept, but to be reassured can make a huge difference. A teenagers’ fears and doubts are very real, by simply listening and allowing them to process these, it can make a real difference and help to put their mind at rest. Reassuring a teenager is as simple as ‘being there’ for them, validating their feelings and affirming who they are. For instance, sitting down with them and giving them time and space to talk about what’s on their mind, giving them permission to express their thoughts and feelings out loud. Then reminding them of who they are, their qualities and achievements so far. Telling them that you believe in them, that they can get through this.
I can’t take credit for the wise man’s words to me, but I am grateful for his advice and it has become an essential component of my practice over the last 25 years of mentoring young people. It has helped them as they have navigated their way thought their teenage years.
Next time you have an opportunity to reassure someone or tell someone they are awesome, take it, you will be making a difference, maybe more than you will ever know!
Katie Reynolds has been working with young people for 25 years and is the mentoring coordinator for CAST, a charity working with young people in secondary schools in Kent. She is married and has two teenage sons. She spent her formative years in youth work in Thornbury!
October 2020 – Mentoring by Jim Constable
My first 6 months of Phase mentoring coincided with a two day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course at work.
I know there are many reasons why young people have a mentor, and many benefits. And I know that a MHFA course is about First Aid, not counselling. And I know that not all young people have mental health challenges. And yet there were still some things from the course that are useful to have in mind when talking to young people.
The course introduced some useful steps:
- Approach, Assess, Assist with any crisis. So if you think someone is in need of first aid – mentally. Don’t walk on by (just as you wouldn’t do if people needed physical first aid)
- Listen and communicate non-judgementally (there are three parts to that. Listen, communicate and don’t judge – that might be hard)
- Give information and support – so be supportive
- Encourage professional help e.g. GP, or a mental health charity
- Encourage other supports – so encourage people to consider seeking support from friends and family. That could mean telling friends and family for the first time that you have a mental health challenge
The three key messages for me, from the course, that are applicable to mentoring are:
- That people sometimes benefit from talking to someone else about their situation. This is common knowledge of course. But sometimes, sometimes, people need encouragement to talk. And a supportive, non-judgemental approach can help with that. One where you’re putting the person first, not trying to force a particular solution, but just start with caring.
- That you don’t need to be an expert or have all the answers to be able to help someone with a situation or challenge they’re facing. Talking, listening and helping them consider options can be extremely valuable to someone.
- That people’s – and their lives – can be wonderful, varied, unexpected, tough, inspirational and nothing like yours. Being open-minded in helping people to use all the resources that we human’s have to keep going, can be hard but extremely rewarding.
Jim Constable (PHASE Mentor)