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Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated


The Simplicity of Mentoring: Teen Moms or Otherwise

By: Michele Cushatt, Guest Blogger
Professional Communicator and Keynote Speaker
Blog: Making Peace with an Imperfect Life

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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Blog Archives

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017


February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017


January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017


November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016


September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016


August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016


July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016


June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016


May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016


April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016


March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016


February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016


January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016


December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015


October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015


July 2015

TEEN MOM BARRIER #6: GENERATIONAL POVERTY - 07/16/2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015


May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015


April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015


February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015


January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015


December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014


October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014


September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014


July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014


June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014


May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014


April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014


March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014


February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014


January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014


December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013


November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013


September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013


August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013


July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013


June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013


May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


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