Mentoring is defined in many ways. At its core, mentoring is best explained as the process of providing specific, specialized skills to one or more people for the benefit of guidance, support and growth. When raising your adolescent, mentoring is often overlooked. The perception that mentoring is inaccessible or expensive could not be further from the truth.
In many indigenous cultures, mentorships were at the foundation of raising children. Children that exhibited certain skill sets at a young age would then be paired with a family or community member that excelled in the corresponding area and took that child under their care throughout their adolescence until that child became an expert in that skill. In more modern times, we have gone away from this practice and we can see the impact it has had on young people, who now go through their formative years feeling as though they are not good at anything, have no skills or talents, or have college degrees but no idea what career they can pursue that fulfills their desires.
In my personal life, I have sought out mentorships for my children and it was the best thing we could have gifted them. At the age of 15, my husband recommended to our daughter that she consider a career in aviation and we took her on her first discovery flight. She was immediately hooked. After she stated that she wanted to become a pilot, I spent countless hours on the internet trying to find resources and organizations that could support her young desire to fly for a living. We went to an aviation conference and as a result of that we found an organization called Aloha 99ʻs that mentors young future female aviators. She joined at the age of 16 and was able to seek out the guidance and support of some amazing women in aviation. She is now a sophomore at UH Hilo in their Aeronautical Science School, still on track to becoming a pilot. The mentorship she experienced was invaluable and something she continues to seek out.
Our son has been blessed with many mentors as well, including cultural practitioners that lead his lauhala weaving cohort for young men. He enjoys the camaraderie and, under the leadership of experts, has woven a hat and hydro flask cover. Our 16-year-old has informed us that he intends to become a Veterinarian, so I once again got to work to find opportunities for him to be mentored in that field and was able to find Aloha Animal Sanctuary for him to volunteer at every Saturday morning. Additionally, a member of his weaving cohort that works as a Veterinarian was willing to take our son under his watch and share the ins and outs of his career as a Veterinarian.
Here is some advice on how to find a mentor for your child:
1- Identify what they are skilled in or desire to become skilled in. (Not what you want them to become skilled in.)
2- Ask around. Among trusted family and friends, oftentimes they already know someone or are familiar with an organization that could help.
3- Take advantage of Google and social media. There are so many (legitimate) experts out there ready and willing to share their work. Be unafraid to reach out to them and see if they would be willing to advise your child too.
4- Get to know your mentors. Interview them, look for reviews or references, and make sure you are comfortable with them. Most importantly, make sure your child is comfortable with them. If your child expresses discomfort with their mentor, please listen and do not force that partnership. It may ruin their desire to continue in that field of study or career.
5- Give your child permission to change their mind. They are human and are free to explore any and every option available. Keep open communication to avoid your teen feeling the pressure that comes with trying to meet certain expectations.
Mentorship is a worthwhile pursuit for families, and we highly recommend them. My children have gained so many opportunities and experiences due to being mentored. They have a solid idea of what their chosen career path may look like and can seek out advice from experts close to them. In the meantime, Pua Mohala will be your mentor as you help and guide your teens as they transition to college and careers.