Adolescent Mentoring Can Help Teens Thrive

Mentoring relationships can have a lasting impact on a teen’s life. Adolescent mentoring can help turn a teen’s life around simply through the relationship that a teen has with an adult. In fact, research shows that the same is true in therapy and in most helping professionals – when there is a positive relationship between two people, a person feels the strength to make the change they would like to make. The same is true for teens too.

In fact, this is precisely why the Search Institute is a strong advocate of adolescent mentoring. They strongly encourage the presence of high quality relationships for teens and have done research to show that these relationships bring significant benefits, including:

  • Increased participation in academics
  • Increased motivation toward their academics
  • Better grades
  • Higher aspirations for the future
  • Involvement in and care for their community
  • More involvement in preparing for college and their future

The Search Institute makes clear that adolescent mentoring relationships are high quality when they have the following traits:

  • Caring
  • Supportive
  • Meaningful
  • Reciprocal
  • Encourages a teen’s autonomy
  • Strengthens a teen’s competence
  • Helps a teen feel as though he or she belongs

Furthermore, a mentor needs to be warm, caring, emotionally intelligent, and must have the ability to communicate – even about uncomfortable topics. When the adult has this ability, it makes it easier for a teen to open up and do the same. Being able to talk about issues, especially those that peers and parents have a hard time, will make a teen feel more at ease with their mentors.

With this is in mind, if a teen is struggling with a concern in life, such as substance use, adolescent mentoring can help strengthen a teen’s self-esteem, empowerment, confidence, inner strength, and more. Through high quality and positive relationships, a teen might find the ability to set boundaries among peers who are offering them drugs or encouraging them to drink. A teen might have the self-confidence to say no to a friend versus giving into peer pressure in order to keep a friendship.

In fact, adolescent mentoring can help a teen thrive. The Search Institute identified specific skills, experiences, relationships, and behaviors that can enable teens to develop into successful and contributing adults. The Search Institute calls these skills and experiences Developmental Assets. A few of them are:

  • Support
  • Empowerment
  • Boundaries  and  expectations
  • Constructive  use  of  time
  • Commitment  to  learning
  • Positive  values
  • Social  competencies
  • Positive  identity

For an adolescent mentoring relationship that has recovery from addiction at the heart of it, these skills and abilities are important for a teen to develop and strengthen. Although there are many reasons why a teen might experiment with drinking and using drugs, they may continue using substance if they are trying to cope with feelings, uncomfortable circumstances, or  needing to fit in with their peers.

Developing internal strengths such as positive identity and self-confidence can help keep substance use at bay. And these strengths can develop and flourish in the mentoring relationship that a teen has with an adult.


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