WANTED: Men to Mentor our Teenage Boys

It’s better to grow emotionally literate boys than it is to fix broken men – but how do we men become the role models our teenagers need? NICK THORPE is excited about a new mentor training coming to Scotland for the first time.

DADS, what comes to mind when you remember your teenage years?

Perhaps you pushed hard against boundaries or veered perilously close to coming off the rails? Maybe you suffered multiple adverse childhood experiences or harboured shame or self-hatred? Perhaps, like me, you were a people-pleaser who sometimes yearned to play wild and free?

Whatever your experience, as a parent you may be entering your own son’s testosterone-fuelled teenage years with some trepidation, remembering how badly you needed good, strong, safe male role models to guide you through the choppy waters of adolescence.

In fact, every society apart from our own has attached huge importance to preparing its young men to take on adult responsibilities. As the African saying puts it: “If you do not initiate your young men into the tribe, they will come back and burn down the village just to feel the heat.”

In the last 10 years I’ve worked with hundreds of men and dads, both in men’s sharing circles and my exhilarating four years with Fathers Network Scotland – and while our ideas of masculinity are undergoing refreshing change, it’s still common for the Pandora’s Box of teenage wounding to stay sealed well into middle age and beyond.

It’s wonderful to watch when liberation and healing come – but how much better it would be to encourage our boys to shed those outdated messages of emotional repression right from the outset! As Frederick Douglass said more than a century ago, it’s better to build strong children than fix broken men.

And for that, we adult dads and role models need support in mentoring our teenagers right when they need it. That’s why I’m so excited to be joining Journeyman UK in its first Scottish training in Edinburgh in less than a months’ time (1-2 June 2019).

The work of this small but highly-acclaimed organisation is two-fold:

  • It provides safe spaces for 13-17-year-olds to open up and learn to share their emotions, both on life-changing rite-of-passage weekends and in regular confidential sharing circles with trained adult mentors committed to their growth.
  • And to do that it first provides training for adult men to explore their own teenage experiences and learn how to be better role models to the upcoming generations of young men.

That’s where the Inner Mentor Training comes in. A small-group, experiential training for men with a maximum of 18 participants, it’s designed for fathers, carers, uncles, men working with adolescents and all men interested in their personal and professional development.

“So much changes in our teenage years,” explains trainer Luke Harney, who has been training men and boys for Journeyman UK for the past decade. “We believe that growing young men need positive role models and support from emotionally healthy adult men; men who’ve done their work, looked at their shadows, gotten clear and present with friends, colleagues, partners and their own children.”

That means real men who are accountable when they mess up or fail, men who can be strong and vulnerable, tough and tender, foolish and wise. With that in mind, the Inner Mentor Training is interactive and self-reflective, designed to support us adult men in exploring, embracing and acknowledging our own teenage experience and the ways it still affects us today.

Apparently it includes the following:
* Revisit your experience of adolescence
* How fathers / carers / mentors influence our teenage experience
* The need for a safe place in a teenager’s life
* Revisiting ‘that conversation with dad’ you didn’t have as a teenager
* Our place within the flow of the generations
* How to see the positive in teenage challenges
* The role and qualities of a mentor
* Basic principles of skilful mentoring
* The importance of play in relating to teenagers
* Information about Journeyman UK group mentoring

The two-day course at the newly-refurbished Mission Hall Studio in Leith, Edinburgh on 1-2nd June (£90 standard/£150 professional CPD), uses a combination of dialogue, small-group exercises, games and personal reflection. There will be encouragement to share honestly about your experience, as much as you choose, with guidance and support.

“It’s an amazing process, very well held,” says one past participant from Stroud, Gloucestershire. “Safe, compassionate, tough, joyful, sad, uplifting and enriching." Another commented “I loved seeing an inspirational model of leadership.”

Although the trainings are aimed at men and boys, they are strongly supported by women who know the value of growing strong and emotionally literate boys and men. An open evening on Fri 31st July for all genders and the whole community will explain more about the rites of passage work of the organisation – keep an eye on the link below for more information.

I’ve signed up for the mentoring training already. As the dad of a 14-year-old I need all the help I can get.

Who wants to join me?

For more information on the Edinburgh Inner Mentor Training see: https://www.celebratingboys.com/latest/mentor-training-journeyman.

For more information on JourneymanUk, see: www.journeymanuk.org