Why Some Young People Need Mentoring

Why do young people with ADHD need a mentor?

The main issues to be covered include why some young people need mentoring, the stages of mentoring, how the stages are managed to ensure successful outcomes and therefore why mentoring works. The issues will be covered by addressing the stages of mentoring, with reference to published academic work and from personal experience as the mentor of a twelve year old boy who also has been diagnosed with ADHD.

The main reason why some young people need mentoring is because adolescence presents many challenges by making the change from childhood to adulthood difficult in itself. Angela M Taylor (Page 2 lines 6 – 14) states that this includes adjustment to physical growth, the onset of puberty, developing new relationships, being able to manage emotional change and developing a personal system of morals, attitudes values and beliefs.

Although many adolescents cope with this process, some do need help Angela M Taylor (page 2 lines 21 – 30) cites the onset of early puberty, coping with emotional changes due to outside stimulus eg bereavement or bullying, the advent of mental health issues or illness or when internal expectations are not met because of poor background or learning environment. (Adapted from Coleman & Hendry 1999 p.10)

It is vital that mentors understand the impact adolescence can have on their mentees and it is important to relate what happens or actions a mentor might take to the Every Child Matters reforms. This is a set of reforms supported by the Children Act 2004. Its aim is for every child, whatever their background or circumstances, to have the support they need to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being.

ADHD and ADD Mentoring

Process of mentoring a young person with ADHD

The mentoring process has its own lifecycle that follows six specific stages. The first is the preparation and meeting stage whereby trained mentors are matched with suitable mentees. At the early meetings it is important to try to set aside any pre conceived ideas about mentoring and in particular ADHD which can be seen as an invisible disability. As a mentor it’s important to demonstrate active listening, use body language to mirror the mentee and paraphrasing what is said to clarify any issues being spoken about. Although many of the published works suggest not asking, “Why”, often asking why proves to be the key to opening up the conversation, without necessarily being perceived as “prying”.

The second stage involves formulating the relationship through trust.This key stage reflects the attachment theory developed by John Bowlby and first pubished in three key papers from 1958 to 1961. Bowlby devoted extensive research to the concept of attachment, describing it as a “Lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” (Bowlby, 1969, p.194).

Bowlby’s theory applies to the mentor – mentee relationship in that we have a desire to be near the people we are attached to and providing a safe haven allows the mentee to return to the mentor for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat. It is critical to remain open, non judgemental and patient in the early stages of the relationship to build trust and a level of rapport. Sometimes the use of self depreciating humour can break the ice and be the stimulus to initiate conversation.

The mentor also acts as a base of security from which the mentee can explore the surrounding environment. A good relationship can help a mentee to develop the confidence to go off and interact with other children, knowing that the mentor is close by should anything happen. This could be instrumental in allowing the mentee to develop relationships with other children that would not otherwsie have been possible before. It will also allow the mentee to develop the confidence to approach adults appropriately to make complaints about a service or goods, or to deal with similar events in everyday life.

The third stage of mentoring is role recognition and relationship development whereby the mentor and mentee are more relaxed about their relationship. Reaching this stage in the mentoring relationship means the development of a level of trust that allows the mentee to express personal feelings and experiences of school, family and life in general. It is vital to have a strong three way relationship with the coordinator. This is often the stage where Maslow’s model of Hierarchical needs is evident in the repetitive need to satisfy physiological needs and to a lesser extent safety needs. If for example a mentee was being bullied at school with good communication between the mentee, mentor and the co-ordinator; the matter can be reported to the school for successful intervention.

The balance stage is the fourth stage whereby it’s important to look at outcomes. The mentee may have achieved some soft outcomes ie feeling more able to control behaviour which might be evidenced by getting into less trouble at school. It’s also important for the mentor to re-visit their own practices in order to effect more positive changes to the outcomes. However if some of the aims and objectives are not SMART, they will be difficult to measure, therefore its vital to be more specific and perhaps more mentee led when agreeing future actions.

In conclusion the stages of mentoring are often in alignment with the theory in my opinion. As mentor and mentee approach the last two stages of the process there are some elements that may need refining. The fifth stage is target focus and whilst mentee’s may show a change in behaviour, they do need to spontaneously recognise the changes in order for them to understand the progress they have made. The maxim, “So far so good” at this point is applicable but there isnt a endpoint with the process of mentoring, its more like a journey to a better place that could still result in taking some wrong turns, no matter how independent the mentee has become.


1. Bolton Lads & Girls Club (2010) Mentor Portfolio

2. Bowlby, J. (1969/1982). Attachment and Loss, Vol. 1: Attachment

3. Coleman, J. and Hendry, L. B. (1999) The Nature of Adolescence

4. Goldberg,S, Muir, R and Kerr, J (1993) Attachment Theory Social Developments and Clinical Perspectives.

5. Ruskin, A University (2010) A guide to Harvard Referencing

6. Taylor, Angela M (2003) Responding to Adolescents.

Jim Melling is a former teacher and medical sales representative having sold drugs for ADHD. At present he works in a voluntary capacity for Bolton Lads & Girls Club in the mentoring unit where he is mentoring a 13 year old boy with ADHD. Jim can be reached at info@jamesmelling.co.uk