Help troubled teens by being the mentor they need

December 30, 2013

Troubled teens need mentors to guide them through their transformative years.

The teenage years can serve as a crossroads in the lives of many troubled kids. Boys are figuring out what it takes to be a man, while girls are quickly becoming women. Navigating through these difficult times can often be a struggle, which is why these young people will sometimes turn to mentors for guidance and support.

Martial arts instructors can often be the mentors that teens who have had problems in their younger years are seeking. That’s what martial arts expert Cosmo Zimik and the rest of his team of volunteers are doing at Open Hand Combat in Nampa, Idaho. The Idaho-Press Tribune recently reported that he teaches troubled teens martial arts for free and provides mentorship for those during their transformative years. Zimik knows exactly what it feels like to be lost, and that has helped him build a strong rapport with his students.

“He used to break into cars and houses,” Zimik told the newspaper, describing one student. “Now I trust him with the gym. That’s how far he’s come.”

The school has been open for more than four years, and Zimik revealed that he has worked with 300 students, about one-third of whom needed guidance that was provided by the program. Sometimes all teens need is a positive influence and the mental strength that can be learned through martial arts to make a real change in their lives.

Form strong relationships with students
Zimik’s troubled past allowed him to easily relate to many of the children in his program, but martial arts instructors who didn’t go through tough times still need to be able form strong bonds with their students. Once that relationship begins to blossom, instructors can share their knowledge beyond martial arts with the teens in the class. The hardest part is often getting young adults to trust them.

An article for Forbes said that it is often easier to strengthen relationships with mentees when they are able to clearly define what they want from the get-go. While many students want to learn martial arts, there are usually more reasons for why they joined the class. The dynamic between mentors and teens may not always be perfect, but this is why it takes a collaborative effort to build a mentee-mentor relationship.

Learn to be a trusted mentor
Martial arts instructors have influenced the lives of many more people than they know, and by being asked to be a mentor, it demonstrates the trust that students have for them. Here are some tips they should keep in mind to ensure the relationship continues to thrive:

  • Be a positive influence: Many troubled teens have negative thoughts that can set back their growth into adulthood. As a mentor, it’s important to be inspirational and uplifting, especially to young adults who have had issues in their development. Sometimes a little encouragement to do the right thing can go a long way.
  • Be a ready and willing listener: Mentorship isn’t always about providing guidance. In many instances, teens will just need someone to talk to about their day, any problems that they are having in school and even in their relationships with others. Lending an ear shows teens that their mentor cares about them, and that can help build trust.
  • Be a friend: Some teens in need of mentorship struggle to find friends. This is why mentors shouldn’t act like parents or authority figures. Instead, it’s critical to guide teens toward making strong decisions, create their own set of positive values and dedicate themselves to reaching their potential in life.