Chloe is fifteen years old and has been matched with mentor Susannah for six months. She talked to us about some of the pressures of teenage life and how having a mentor can help.
“I was referred to Friendship Works because I have high levels of anxiety and I was having a hard time getting out of the house – I couldn’t go out without having someone with me.
It was a bit awkward when I first met Susannah, but she did seem really nice. She engaged in conversation a lot so it didn’t feel like I was just talking at her. It was easier than it is with some adults – the conversation seemed to come naturally.
We have been on lots of good outings together – we like to sample world food. So far we’ve tried Vietnamese and Korean, and tired lots of different things at the Japanese Expo at Earls Court, which was really cool. We’ve also been ice skating which was one of my favourites; I fell over a few times but Susannah helped me and then I didn’t fall quite so much!
It has definitely made a big difference to me having a mentor. It has stopped my mental health from deteriorating. I can feel quite low at times, but having someone who comes and takes me out regularly and who talks to me about things makes a big difference.
I go out a lot more now than I did before I met Susannah. I feel more confident when I’m with her, but I’ve also found that I’m more confident when I go out at other times as well.
Growing up as a teenager in London is a lot harder than I thought it would be. There is constant pressure from your friends about how to behave, how to dress, and to act in a certain way. Your social life is controlled by those around you, and there is a lot of judgement from others all the time.
Having someone older to talk to helps a lot. Sometimes it can be hard to talk to friends about issues because they may tease you about it, but a mentor is there to just listen without judging, and that can make things easier.
The best thing about having a mentor is having a friend who doesn’t judge and who has a bit more life experience so you can ask them for advice on things like career and life choices.
Having a mentor may not be right for everyone, but I would say give it a try and see how it goes. Especially if you can’t talk to your teachers and your parents are busy with other issues, then having a mentor can be really good; it gives you a safe adult in your life who you can talk to about important things.
For any adults thinking of becoming a mentor to a teenager, I would say don’t look at them as a young person, just see them as a friend. Obviously there are boundaries around the mentoring relationship that make it a bit different, but focus on trying to build a good friendship. It will help you too if you do – Susannah says she has learned a lot from me. I talk about what’s in the news and we discuss issues that she wouldn’t normally access, so she says she has learned new things.
However it is also important to remember that some teenagers will find it hard to open up to you, so be patient. Teens can find it hard to make friends with an adult, and they may find it strange at first. If you can see that they aren’t being one hundred per cent honest with you to start with, just wait, and they will talk to you about things when they are ready.”