Society is anxious. We all sense it.

The question is: What are we going to do with it?

Here is the challenge: If we mentors sense the stress, we can be confident that our mentees also feel it as they navigate new schools, friendships, and trials this school year. A recent article by Drs. Saray Myruski and Kristin Buss, from Pennsylvania State University, confirms this hunch. The article, entitled Teens and Anxiety during Covid-19, makes the following conclusion.

Preliminary data from our own Penn State teen anxiety study reinforces this striking pattern of growing anxiety. Compared to pre-COVID-19, anxiety severity among our respondents has increased 29%, largely driven by significantly heightened generalized anxiety (up 45%) and school anxiety (up 143%).[1]

Since school anxiety is up more than 100% among our teen population, I reached out to an excellent school-based mentoring network located in south-central Texas and asked their leader how mentoring practitioners could help ease the anxiety load for their mentees during this chaotic season. Here are some suggestions from Mandy Benedix, Mentoring Specialist for Pearland ISD and founder of Rise Mentoring. Mandy highlights two important ways we mentors can help our mentees adjust to new situations and new school contexts.[2]

One of the best gifts we can give to our mentees as they work to adjust to new school environments is to normalize what they are feeling. The best way to normalize what they are feeling is to share how you are feeling the same. This non-judgmental approach creates a common space from which the two of you can start.

Secondly, remind your mentees that they can do hard things. Point to things they have overcome in the past and remind them that they can also overcome this hard thing. Most importantly, remind them that they don’t have to do it alone!

The late Murray Bowen, a key leader in the establishment of Family Systems Theory, supports Mandy’s thinking with his research. Bowen taught that any system, including societal systems, settle down when an outside calming presence (person) enters the system. Roberta Gilbert writes that the “coach’s [mentor’s] calm presence” is one of the two “invaluable opportunities to be of use” within anxious situations.[3] When the mentor responds calmly and consistently during stressful days, this helps the mentee to do the same.

I cannot help but think of how Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee many years ago. In doing so, he also calmed the storm raging within the fear-ridden hearts of his disciples. Mentors, you can do the same. Your words and your life, during stormy seasons, will calm both storms and fearful hearts within the mentees you have grown to love and respect.


[1] https://covid19.ssri.psu.edu/articles/teens-and-anxiety-during-covid-19

[2] https://www.pearlandisd.org/mentoring

[3] Roberta Gilbert, The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory, 24. (2006)

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