One of the most important things we can do for our kids is help them find mentors. Numerous studies show that a child’s having a positive relationship with an adult other than his or her parents is the most common factor connected to resilience. If we can be that person or help find that person, we will have provided our children with an excellent resource to help overcome their past trauma.
There are many ways we can help our kids find mentors. Experience shows up that the strongest relationships in life grow organically from shared experiences. So we should look for activities that our kids enjoy headed by trusted adults. Sports coaches, for example, often become mentors for kids. I’ve seen teens develop strong relationships with band directors, community theater managers, and dance teachers. Any community activity that your child enjoys can provide a potential mentor.
Faith communities are another great resource. Churches and synagogues are filled with adults who enjoy teaching young people and have a lot of hard-won wisdom to share. Groups connected to faith communities also can fill the same niche.
Another place to look for mentors would be official mentoring groups. Programs such as Boys & Girls Clubsor 100 Black Men seek to help children who need more concerned adults in their lives. They offer a rich pool of potential mentors and positive experiences for your kids.
Finally, we can look among our own family and friends to find positive role models for our children. We can’t create a relationship, but we can find ways for our kids to spend time with adults they might admire. The opportunity for relationships may result in positive mentoring time for your children.
Of course, we have to keep our kids safe from toxic relationships. Children who have suffered from trauma, especially those who have been abused, are at risk for further abuse as they grow up. As I’ve discussed before, pedophiles grooming a child for abuse often mimic good mentors. We have to be alert for people who overstep healthy boundaries or try to emotionally isolate a child. It is a tough balance, but we need to encourage both strong mentoring relationships and safety for our children.
Be Willing to Step Back
Finally, we can’t take it personally if our children develop a strong relationship that seems to exclude us. It’s easy to feel slighted when a child starts quoting someone else as the ultimate authority or prefers to spend time with a group that doesn’t include us. We have to keep in mind that separating from our parental authority is a normal part of growing up. In fact, it’s a necessary part of achieving independence. Additional relationships don’t threaten what we have with our children any more than we love one of our children less than others. We need to encourage our children’s relationships with whatever positive adults they can find. We have to trust our children to find the proper balance for all of their relationships as they grow toward becoming self-sufficient adults.
As we work on parenting children with trauma and using all of the techniques that we can find, let’s not overlook the resource that other adults can provide. Finding mentors for our children who can provide positive role models and strong relationships may be one of the best ways we can help them recover from whatever trauma they have suffered.