Children do not learn in a vacuum.
When it comes to learning about society they look to the significant adults in their lives for guidance and direction. This also applies to developing self-esteem.
These adults act as mentors to children. A mentor is typically a wise and trusted counsellor or teacher, or an influential senior sponsor or supporter.
Kids need adults who care about them to mentor them to a successful adulthood. But not all children have this important resource and that's where Big Brothers Big Sisters come into play. Each Big Brother Big Sister agency has specific eligibility criteria for children's involvement in their agency's programs that essentially guides enrolment.
Generally, mentoring programs are available to young people six to 18 years of age from diverse backgrounds.
The youth are referred by schools, parents or guardians and are those who can benefit from the one-to-one attention of another adult (a carefully screened adult who can share their interests, listen to them, and act as a guide and support).
Canada's largest mentoring organization is turning 100 and is celebrating with a year-long public education campaign to give Canadians fresh insights into the societal value of youth mentoring.
To mark the launch of this national effort, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) are releasing the first results of one of the largest mentoring studies ever conducted.
The five-year study, which tracks the experiences of almost 1,000 children and teenagers registered with Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across Canada, found that those with a mentor are significantly more confident in their academic abilities and considerably less likely to display behavioural problems.
Whether or not the children we know would be candidates for the organization, we can all learn about the value of mentoring relationships with youngsters. It's easy to get so involved with the day-to-day details of child raising that we can miss the importance of identifying with each child as an individual. What matters to her? What are her primary interests?
From that we can share our interests and work with her to understand that what she cares about matters. We can support, educate and even challenge our children to move forward from their strengths, because generally speaking, what we like and enjoy is what we are good at. Success breeds success.
Some key findings from the study are:
. Girls with a Big Sister are two and a half times more likely than girls without a mentor to be confident in their ability to be successful at school.
. Boys with a Big Brother are three times less likely than boys without a mentor to suffer peer pressure-related anxiety, such as worrying about what other children think or say about them.
. Mentored boys are two times more likely to believe that school is fun and that doing well academically is important.
. Mentored boys are also two times less likely than non-mentored boys to develop negative conducts like bullying, fighting, lying, cheating, losing their temper or expressing anger.
The breadth and detail of this study is such that these current findings are just a small sample of what will be released in the months and years to come. Each new release of findings will further illuminate the extent to which mentored children do better.
Do not underestimate the value of mentoring the children in your life.
If you know a child who is lacking this support, contact your closest Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
Canadians who have a story to tell can participate in BBBSC's 100th birthday celebrations through social media by giving a "big shout out" to the special people who made a difference in their lives - be they parents, extended family members, coaches, teachers, employers or a volunteer Big Brother or Big Sister.
People can tell their mentoring story to the Big Brothers Big Sisters community by visiting thebigshoutout. ca.
. Kathy Lynn is the author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. To read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at parentingtoday.ca.