News day reporter
Dr. Asha Pemberton
Young people admire and imitate those they want to imitate. As a natural part of identity development, tweens and teens will look around and admire those they feel a connection to or want to be like. At this point, it’s often based on attributes or accomplishments that spur their interest, such as success in music, the arts, advocacy, or sports.
Sometimes it can be based on style or the balance of physical attributes. Yet, there are many other reasons teens choose role models. Life stories of struggle and triumph resonate with some young people who are going through similar experiences; yet parents, family members, teachers or community leaders all frequently serve as positive role models.
For these reasons, adults in our community must always be mindful of their behavior and interactions with young people, as they are often unaware of how much they can influence developing young people.
Benefits for Teens of Having a Mentor
Role models and mentors can shape the lives of young people by providing examples of how to pursue goals, navigate life, or simply by confirming that certain paths and dreams are indeed attainable. Although parents are often busy caring for their teenagers, it is important to recognize that they are often the first role models in their lives, which needs to be taken into account in day-to-day interactions.
Role models can influence young people’s perspectives, especially when they can see tangible results from their efforts. This is particularly powerful when the mentors are local, as young people can then identify that someone else, from their context, has then been able to do things they admire.
Young teenagers are often more easily impressed by grand accomplishments. However, with age and development, young people better understand efforts that lead to results; and having examples close to home makes this learning all the more meaningful.
Self-image and body positivity
For young people of all genders, there are times of struggle with self-acceptance and body image. This seems to be even more true in our social media driven world. That said, when young people can positively connect with adults who are like them in any way, it gives a positive boost to self-esteem. The impact of a positive bodily self-concept on overall adolescent development cannot be overstated.
Young people, especially girls who have low self-esteem in relation to their body image, are at greater risk of engaging in harmful and unproductive behaviors. It is therefore essential that parents remain closely involved in the online lives of their teenagers and are aware of the emergence of unhealthy comparisons or body image distortions. These seem to be becoming more and more prevalent in our environment, so awareness is essential.
Role models have a significant impact on the behavioral choices young people make regarding health and well-being. Food choices, physical activity, and use of alcohol or other substances are often influenced first by family, friends, and then other role models or idols. This is another way parents often underestimate their impact on teens, failing to recognize that they are laying the foundation from which teen behavior grows.
Overall, parents are encouraged to actively support their youngsters so that they have a mentor. A trusted adult who can take the time to talk to them, share stories and experiences, and give opinions can have a significant impact on a young person’s life. Parents can also mentor their own children’s friends, especially in contexts of family discord. All of these opportunities should not be overlooked as potential contributions to positive youth development.