Finding mentors and role models for your child

Does your child have mentors and role models in his or her life? A role model is anyone your child trusts, admires, and respects—a neighbor, family friend, teacher, older relative, or someone from your community. A mentor listens and gives good advice, spends time with your child, helps your child make good choices, offers encouragement, and helps your child set and reach goals.

Many children need more than one adult voice in their lives. The lessons and values you are trying to teach your child will be more credible if they are reinforced, especially as your child gets old enough to question what he or she is told. Even if a mentor's advice is not exactly what yours might be, a solid, dependable adult will bring some balance and enrichment into your child's life.

Research shows that children and teenagers who have had a mentor are more self-confident and have better relationships with friends, parents, and other adults. They're less likely to be involved with drugs and alcohol. They do better in school and are more likely to go to college. Research also shows that at different stages in their development, children look to different role models for different skills. For a single mom or dad, mentoring can provide that extra pair of hands. In fact, mentoring benefits all children.

"Be creative and proactive in searching out same-sex role models. Look for relationships with some built-in longevity."

—Linda Foust, The Single Parent's Almanac

Be sure to carefully screen any adult or young adult who will be mentoring or spending time with your child. Here's how to find a mentor:

• Look for someone in your circle of friends, family, and community. A friend without children might make a great mentor for your son or daughter. A college student in your community who is mature and focused might be just the right mentor for your child.

• Talk with a teacher, counselor, or administrator at your child's school. Guidance counselors, teachers, and other staff members who know your child well may be able to suggest someone or provide you with resources.

• Look for a mentor in your faith community. Many houses of worship have mentoring programs for youth.

• Look for mentoring programs in the community. Many business and community groups offer programs. There are mentoring programs, for example, in organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

• Contact the organization called National Mentoring Partnership. Visit its Web site at www.mentoring.org. This organization offers information on qualities to look for in a mentor and how a mentor can help your child. It also offers an online directory of mentoring services around the country and can help you find a mentor for your son or daughter in your community.

• Explore e-mentoring opportunities. E-mentoring—also known as telementoring or teletutoring—is mentoring that takes place online. Students are matched with adult volunteers in different fields and correspond by e-mail about school, jobs, projects, and other issues. For helpful information about e-mentoring, go to the International Telementor Program (ITP) at www.telementor.org. Be sure to monitor any online activities your child participates in and to carefully screen programs and mentors.

• Call Save the Children's toll-free number to find mentoring or other volunteer opportunities in your area. The number is 877-BE-A-MENTOR. You'll learn about how to find a mentor for your child as well as how to volunteer to become a mentor. Save the Children has a number of mentoring programs, including an intergenerational program that pairs children and adults age 50 and over.

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