By Dr. Jan Hittelman

Adolescence is a turbulent time and as parents our high school and middle school children constantly challenge us. While we know it’s a time of experimentation, we want to keep our children safe from drugs, alcohol and other risk behaviors. Even though they may lack focus at times, we want our children to achieve in school. Perhaps most importantly we want our children to learn the skills necessary to become healthy, happy and successful adults.

One way that we can help protect our youth against risk behaviors, while at the same time helping them to develop positive self-esteem is through connecting them with an adult mentor. This can be through formal programs as well as informal mentoring. Informal mentoring involves adults that are already in your child’s world; a neighbor, teacher, relative, parent’s coworker, one of their friends parents, etc. It is a trusted adult who can be a source of support and guidance for your child at a time when they are more resistant to guidance from Mom and Dad. This is no surprise because their developmental task is to separate from parents and become more independent. A mentor can fill this critical void.

Instead of traditional counseling, many psychotherapists are no offering mentoring as an alternative; instead of sitting in an office and talking for an hour a week, they get together and do activities together. This is often more comfortable for adolescents and they may open up more about themselves and their challenges.