January is National Mentoring Month, an annual observance to celebrate mentoring and the positive effects mentors have on young people. Generally, mentoring describes an older, more experienced person providing support and advice to a younger person (or mentee). Mentors can help their mentees build skills, develop relationships, overcome challenges, and gain confidence.
A mentor can be a trusted adult for a child or teen experiencing bullying. Mentoring relationships can help youth know they are not alone. Additionally, mentors may recognize the signs of bullying and intervene on their mentees’ behalf. According to the National Mentoring Resource Center, mentoring programs can help both youth who are bullied and youth who are bullying others. Mentors can learn about bullying, commit to creating a safe space free from bullying, educate children and parents about bullying, and take appropriate action when bullying occurs.
Youth may also have informal mentors in the community through sports, arts activities, volunteering, or faith-based organizations. Whether they are coaches, pastors, or older peers, mentors can work together to reinforce the message that bullying is unacceptable and address it when it happens. These community leaders and mentors can help children develop prosocial skills and positive relationships and create safe environments for all youth – including those who are perceived to be different by their peers, due to their race, ethnicity, religion, or disabilities. Having a mentor provides youth at increased risk for bullying a valuable trusted adult relationship, one of the protective factors for bullying.