It used to be that great role models for our children were right outside their door. Towns were small and everyone knew everyone. A lot has changed with development and technology.
One thing is still for sure—a great thing you can do for your children is expose them to positive, powerful role models. Most teens inform us that they don’t feel supported by adults and don’t have at least 3 key adults to whom they can turn if they are in need. Still, having such adults in their lives can be a key factor in their ability to thrive in today’s world. Adult mentorship is a major asset to a young person.
In a world where people look up to “Snooky” and “The Situation” of The Jersey Shore, ready-made role models can leave a lot to be desired. So how can you help your children get the role models and support they need?
(1) Go old school: Think of those who are closest to you; your family, closest friends, old teachers and neighbors. See if someone is willing to spend a little extra time with your child. Sometimes having someone outside of the immediate family is just the thing to get your child to open up and feel uniquely supported. It may feel a bit strange to ask, but you may find that a group of your friends are willing to switch it up and be outside mentors to each other’s children.
(2) Ask questions: We may look at someone who our children admire and wonder what it is that they see in them. Worse—we may jump to conclusions and assume the worst. But your children may have sound reasons for looking up to a particular role model. Ask; what is it about this person that you admire? You may learn something about what your children are looking for and what they still need.
(3) Find Someone Who Lights their SPARK: I explain in my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, that SPARK is support, passion, action, reason, and knowledge. These are the critical parts of what a child/teen needs to succeed in their goal of choice. Do you know anyone who seems to have this affect on your child? Think of someone who may have succeeded in your child’s particular goal already and may be able to offer some great insights and tips. Especially when your child is genuinely interested in something that you know very little about, an outside mentor could be an enormous help in shaping the goal and encouraging progress.
(4) Notice a commonality: When your child is having a problem at school or at home, reaching out to someone who has dealt with such a challenge before would be a great person to help your child. For example, do you have a family friend who was bullied or excelled in school with ADHD or Dyslexia? Does your son need a trusted male in his life or your daughter need a trusted female in her life to discuss gender-based changes? Does your child identify with a different race, religion, or viewpoint than you do and needs to get some answers or support? This person may have the kind of empathy or insight your child needs who is dealing with or has dealt with similar issues. While parents often want to be the one their child confides in, sometimes getting advice from someone who isn’t so emotionally invested but is simply “in the know” can be a great development.
(5) Have your child/teen reach out: If you know your child/teen is curious about a friend of yours due to their career choice or life situation, encourage them to reach out. You can always help them if they need it. Your children or teens can write a note or an email to their potential mentor requesting some time and letting him/her know what they’re interesting in covering. If an actual in-person meeting isn’t possible, perhaps a short phone call is. If your child or teen is simply too shy, see if your friend or colleague is willing to reach out to them—it may just be the nudge they need to say “yes.”
If you ask any adult who had the biggest influence on them growing up, it is most likely an adult who supported, encouraged, or taught them in some way. In other words, it was a mentor. Technology can make it both easier and tougher to find someone your child can trust to fill this position. Think about it- it doesn’t need to be anyone “fancy”– and the right person may be right under your nose!
Outside Role Models for Our Children: Why They Need One & Who They Should Pick is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System