By Sarah Lewis, Kidscape Representative for the South West and Peer Mentoring Lead
Life is hard for so many of us right now, for so many reasons. Tough that there is so much uncertainty and so much change. Tough that for so many of us, our lives are not what they were, or not what we want them to be.
No matter what age we are it's difficult when we feel we have no control over a situation. Young people are no exception, in fact it may seem more difficult for them as they have lost so much that is familiar to them; so much that supports their sense of belonging.
We could be naive for thinking this will just go away when everything returns to normal. But as everyone says, ‘what is normal’...and what will be the new normal? We just don’t know yet. What we do know is that people will be changed by this experience. Positive or negative, there will be change.
If young people already struggled with anxiety and belonging before lockdown, how will they identify with the world now, where will they fit in.
Peer support has never been needed more than it is now. Peer Mentoring programmes post lockdown are an opportunity for young people to support their peers, using their own emotions, their own lived experience, their own unique understanding to relate to each other and provide positive guidance. Children and young people need to feel supported and safe in an environment that is ever changing and very different to the one they were familiar with.
Peer Mentoring programmes are based on young people supporting each other; matching peer mentors with mentees in one-on-one relationships so they can provide guidance and support, serving as positive role models. With appropriate training, guidance and supervision peer mentors can listen and support fellow peers (mentees); helping them deal with the challenges they face.
Right now young people need to be able to share their concerns and anxieties……
So - Why Peer Mentoring
- Children listen to children. Young people listen to young people. We are all influenced by our peers which makes peer influence so incredibly powerful and is proven to have an impact when other support fails.
- Peer Mentoring programmes match mentors with mentees from similar backgrounds or shared experiences; thus providing the greatest amount of understanding and empathy. Young people can work through their concerns and feel that they are not alone. Never underestimate the power of being able to say… “I know what you’re going through”
- What makes the Kidscape programme so specialised is that Peer Mentoring programmes we develop are bespoke and tailored specifically to the needs of the young people within the chosen setting. Achieving a real impact on addressing individual concerns.
- Young people are often more open and honest with a peer mentor, sharing their true feelings. This additional care supports a reduction in anxiety and low-level mental health/wellbeing issues, before they develop into something bigger.
- Peer mentoring helps young people manage and process their thoughts and worries in a safe and familiar environment in a positive way.
- Peer Mentoring programmes provide training and support to young people who want to become mentors. Peer mentoring is not just a positive and engaging experience for the mentee but a purposeful experience for the peer mentor. Encouraging young people to feel empowered by supporting others. This process supports Peer Mentors to overcome their own challenges post lockdown, by giving back to others and supporting their communities.
- Peer Mentoring programmes help schools and organisations to further support their children/young people to re-engage and reconnect.
Peer to peer support has never been needed more than right now. Peer Mentoring programmes compliment other forms of support and help young people reconnect and thrive in their new normal. These programmes will help young people find their sense of belonging, find their communities again in a world where they may otherwise feel lost.
For more information on the Kidscape Peer Mentoring programme (currently available via virtual delivery) email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.kidscape.org.uk/training.
Support to set up a peer mentoring programme in your school or youth setting.