Given the way children are inundated by superficial social media messages, they are increasingly “numb” to information coming at them. As new social media apps blossom every day, children are sometimes impossible to reach. Trying to mentor them can feel like you are trying to sell sand in the desert.
How do you as a parent (or an adult) compete with the thousands of “eye candy” images crossing each child’s (or fellow adult’s) line of vision?
Meanwhile, as a parent (or coach, Mentor, counselor) you want to make a mark on children around you. Our Hope as parents is to make a fundamental imprint on our children.
To gain access to that vigilantly protected “inner sanctum” of children, that place where a child is open and will deeply absorb outside ideas, is what we all wish for. To get this deep requires incredible innovativeness. Drowning in social media imagery, the younger generation is drifting toward an almost ADHD-like attention span and intense suspiciousness. They are the least influenceable generation that has ever walked planet Earth.
As a Tucson counselor to 1,000’s of children over the last 15 years, I have found that one of the most effective approaches is to start by helping a child or adolescent understand their strengths, but not just any strength, but especially their hidden strengths. In fact, you can hit a home run if you can help a child see predominating “inner sanctum” themes to what drives them. Someone did this for me when I was barely a college graduate, as I will share below.
When we can articulate a “red thread” theme a child has that is positive yet not grasped by the child, and we can NAME that quality, we can focus the child on their True Essence; what is Best about them. We help them look inside of themselves, into a place much more compelling than any screen.
We best Mentor when we identify noble character qualities that not only compose the child’s Best Self, but will help the child see their Destiny. This is not about telling a child what career they should do or what college they should go to. It is about helping the child see some of the most important character seeds of goodness they have inside.
As adults, we have a bird’s eye view of the some twists and turns down that child’s roller coaster track. But what makes us the best Mentors (or counselors or coaches) to children is not telling our children what we have been through, because then we are telling the Hero Story. The best way to reach a child is when we help them see the qualities that allow them to become a Hero.
Now more than ever children crave something creatively compelling, something that reaches so deep inside that the next eye candy they see does not erase that experience.
There is a saying that stories change the Human heart, so I shall tell one vital to this blog impacting you: At one of my most vulnerable times, as a young adult and college graduate, I lived in Washington D.C, in one of the roughest areas of town. But my meager earnings required humble living quarters.
Out of the blue I received a letter from Mrs. Sue Makela, the mother of a wonderful young lady I dated in high school. At the time I received the letter I was feeling like many (if not most) 19 year old college graduates: rudderless, with no clear direction. I had an internship but was without a true and deep purpose.
Mrs. Makela wrote me a letter and said she had watched a movie called The Razor’s Edge (Original version) and had thought of me. She went on to say it seemed I was searching for a deeper meaning to life. Mind you, I had not seen or spoke with Mrs. Makela for at least 5 years. I went on to watch the movie and it resonated deeply with me. It led to my crafting a newly rejuvenated approach to finding the right environment for me to find the most meaningful way forward. I can say I still have a mental image of reading that letter.
The Moral of the Story is when we stop telling children what we think they should do, and rather, we articulate their best qualities, we stand the best chance of reaching deeper inside than anything else. Humans crave meaning, but not the meaning we want them to have, but rather the meaning they are naturally drawn to.
Thank you to the now deceased but beautiful Soul, Mrs. Sue Makela. You made an indelible impact on my life, and forever altered my course for the better.