How do we Mentor Millennials and get them where they need to go? Start with where you are.
So here we are. A new year has begun. Your millennial is back in university and you are hoping that last year's effort (best described as crap-tabulous) will not be repeated. Horrible marks. Terrible self-talk/self-image. Massive anxiety.
Here's the worst part... who can you talk to about your child? Especially if you believe (as so many of the parents who talk to me about this feel) that every other person's child is doing fine and it is just your child who cannot cope.
I will give you the answer to the parent/mentor issue at the end of this article but let's start first with helping your millennial:
The Three Challenges
1. Just-in-timers. For lots of students, it was easy in high school to wait to the last minute, binge study and pull off some nifty grades. The harsh reality is that this doesn't work in university/college and the student does not have the resources or experience to try another way.
2. The deliciousness of indulgence. Being away from home and having no external controls, mixed with a massive amount of booze, weed and fellow video-gamers with unlimited internet access is a recipe for badness. The uninformed will say "just say no"... good luck with that.
3. The scourge of social anxiety. This is at epidemic proportions in North America. This anxiety can make it practically impossible to reach out for help in school. Making it difficult to get back on track when they fall behind, it can push them to make self-destructive choices when the inevitability of their situation is shoved in their face by mid-terms.
The Three Solutions
1. Just-in-timers meet the daily routine. By starting with the simplest tasks inserted in one's day-to-day life, the millennial learns to use a scheduler (why does this generation prefer to keep notes on loose slips of paper?!?) to take control of their daily lives. It may seem like a small step but simply being able to do one five-minute task a day instills in them what they didn't get by obligation or just-in-timing high school.
2. Indulgence meet observation: Remember what I said about "just say no"? Well double that on this one. We are not talking about people doing serious stuff in a way that is self-endangering. Those people need immediate action but for those indulging just enough to keep them from doing anything in life, here is the solution -- observe it. Yes. Notice when you are doing your indulgence. Think about why you are doing it. Is it to self-medicate (i.e. deal with your anxiety)? Is it to alleviate boredom? Is it for social sharing? Is it just cuz? This may seems nuts but all of those are valid. The trick is to figure out which one, when, offer better things to do that you would enjoy more for some and leave the others (at the beginning). This is the start of conscious use and helps make different choices in the future.
3. Calming social anxiety. This can seem so formidable. It requires a mentor who conveys non-judgmental trust. It requires the mentee/millennial looking at their challenge with kindness instead of harsh self-judgment and then to implement the following over six months; deep breathing (versus shallow breathing); visualization/meditation; learning positive self-talk; patience and relaxation.
Why Mentoring Millennials May Not Work (at first)
OK. It will work. (Deep breaths please). The three solutions I mention above work for 90 per cent of the millenials I encounter, just please don't try this at home folks at least until you finish this article: Let's start with a story:
The Long Spoons.
So... true story. I wanted to understand heaven and hell. So first, I traveled to hell (Insert Donald Trump joke here...)
There were rows of tables piled high with platters of the most delicious food. Each platter was more aromatic and more beautiful to behold than the last. Every person held a full spoon but both arms were splinted with wooden slats making it impossible to bend their elbows to bring the food to their mouths. The people were emaciated, suffering and bereft of hope.
So I went to heaven (Insert Wayne Dyer tribute here...).
Everything was the same. Same tables, same platters of food, same splints on the arms making it impossible to bend elbows but the people were satiated, happy and fulfilled. The big difference -- in heaven as a person picked up their spoon and dug into the nourishment availed to them, they stretched across the table and fed the person across from them. That person thanked them and then leaned across the table to feed their neighbor.
What's This Got to Do with Me?!?
Chances are there is nothing wrong with your mentoring skills (if you have been working on them) but imagine the mentor is the person with the spoon, the wisdom is the food and the person starving is your child. You cannot mentor your own child, the whole concept of tribe was designed to have you mentor your neighbor's child and them mentor yours.
This is why people come to professional mentors/life coaches like myself and the mentors I train. This is why you should become a mentor but get a distant relative or friend from another city to study mentoring with you. Then, you mentor their child and they should mentor yours.
Let's start a movement and use the long spoons the way the were meant to be used. I believe the millennials have the potential to be the greatest generation since the 1940s but they need new mentoring paradigms.
Find someone you trust and believe in to train you and your mentoring partner and begin a tiny revolution! It shall grow.
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