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Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated
The Simplicity of Mentoring: Teen Moms or Otherwise
Eight pair of teenage eyes stared back at me.
It was our first meeting. I sat on the couch, surrounded by blank-faced high school girls slouched in cushions and spread out on the floor. The plan was to mentor this group, where we would read through a book, cover some verses in the Bible, and share a little discussion and life.
Seemed simple enough when I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” Until that first night, when a room full of skeptics sized me up.
They waited for me to say something. But I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I’d been a teenage girl at one point in time. I should’ve remembered the language, what to say or not say. However, the 20 years since high school had worked like a thick fog, erasing specific memories and images, leaving me with only a vague remembrance of what it felt like to be a teenage girl.
So there I sat, a middle-aged mother of three boys facing a room full of teenage girls. I was totally out of my league, and I knew it. I assumed they knew it as well, and that scared me most of all.
I blurted out a question, something like “How is your week?” or “Any big plans for the weekend?” I should’ve done better, come up with something more creative or insightful or deep. Under pressure, it was the best I could do.
However, as it turned out, that’s all it took. One question. A conversation starter. Something that opened the door and showed them I was interested.
The rest of the night went without a hitch. We talked about our book, spent a little time exchanging struggles and successes, and finally closed with a prayer. We even made plans to meet for dinner the following weekend, just to hang out and have fun. And one of the girls planned to join me at my house the following week to take a walk.
An hour and a half later, I watched the girls drive away toward their separate homes. As I waved, I wondered what I’d been so worried about. Mentoring a group of teenage girls wasn’t as hard as I thought.
We do this, don’t we? At heart, we like the idea of investing in other people. We want to make a difference. But then we see the faces staring back at us, and we panic. What if I don’t know what to say? What if it’s too much work? What if it doesn’t work out? Perhaps we’re making the simple too complicated.
Instead, mentoring others—whether teen moms or otherwise—simply requires three ingredients:
Opportunity: Think of it as an open door or an invitation. Mentoring doesn’t happen unless you create an opportunity and walk through it. For me, it began by saying “yes” when asked to lead a group. Then I needed to keep my word and show up, so the girls knew they had a safe place to come.
Acceptance: If the front door is open, but your heart is not, the opportunity doesn’t really matter. Teen moms want the same thing we all want: acceptance. We want to know we’re wanted, cared for. We need to know that what lies within—the heart of who we are—matters more than our appearance or circumstances. When it came to those teen girls, I had to remember that’s what they craved. Not someone to fix their lives or offer deep insights and wisdom. They just wanted to be loved.
Transparency: Vulnerability breeds vulnerability. If you want someone to share their life with you, you have to be willing to share yours. Be brave. Disclose your struggles and successes. Give others an inside peek at the reality of your life. Then, as you demonstrate the courage to go first, you inspire those around you to do the same.
I used to think that mentoring was some kind of formal, intense arrangement. Something planned and plotted, and a whole lot of work. It certainly can be. But at its core, mentoring is merely sharing life together, one person a bit further down the road than the other. It’s investing in someone else, whether in a small group, over ice cream or out for a long walk. Exchanging experience for experience, story for story, love for love.
The result? By taking the time to invest in the life of another, neither one of us needs walk alone.
A storyteller at heart, Michele Cushatt inspires audiences with the warmth of her transparency and presence. Her unique style makes you feel like you just spent an afternoon with a good friend, sparking tears one moment and laughter the next. Her speaking experience covers the United States and includes Women of Faith, Compassion International and Focus on the Family. Pulling from her unique life experiences, Michele’s first book, a memoir, will be published by Zondervan Publishers in 2015. Michele and her husband, Troy, live in Colorado with their six children, ages 6 to 21. She enjoys a good novel, a long run and sleeping in the sun. You can read her blog, Making Peace with an Imperfect Life, at michelecushatt.com.
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Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014
Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014
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Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Lisa Steven said: Laura, you are an amazing teacher! You are making a huge impact in the lives of our young moms ... [more]
Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kerry Kelley said: What a great post, Laura! That was so insightful and caring! It almost made me cry! I love the pe ... [more]