Feb 8th Mentoring Minute – realities of trauma

8 out of 10 young adults indicated that they had at least one experience that caused them trauma.

This month, we’re taking a closer look at the importance of resilience as we mentor students. Resilience has always been an important quality for students to learn and develop, and the challenges of the past year have only made that more clear.

A recent study* of Generation Z (ages 13-21) by the Barna Group has given us new insights into exactly what those challenges are, and how students are choosing to deal with them.

Take trauma for example. The Barna study asked teens and young adults to indicate if they feel a particular event, whether it happened to them or someone close to them, has caused them trauma (defined in the survey as leaving them with a sense of helplessness, terror, or distress lasting more than a few weeks).

ONE STUDENT EXPLAINS: “Why Mentoring?” Dennis describes himself as someone who was angry a lot and needed someone to talk to. Stress and conflict he experienced at home came with him to school. He frequently felt emotional and out of control. After a year with his mentor, he says “life is so much better now.” He and his mentor talk together, take walks, share breakfast, and sometimes play games for fun. Of their weekly time together, Dennis says: “I always look forward to seeing him. It helps to talk and get the stress out.”

Over 8 out of 10 (82%) indicated that they had at least one experience that caused them trauma. And, the most common experiences listed were the death of a loved one (35%), suicidal thoughts (30%), and betrayal (25%).

In addition, the study highlighted the disparities between ethnicities when it comes to different types of traumatic experiences and the number of experiences a student has. For example, Hispanic young people are twice as likely as those of any other ethnicity to qualify as very high on the trauma metric.

What does all of this mean for us as mentors as we come alongside students and help them learn to be resilient in these challenging times?

For one, it means that there are no easy answers…no “magic bullet” or 3-step approach for us to bring into our mentoring relationships. So, we need to be open-minded, we need to be learners, and we need to continue to listen well.

And second, it means that with the addition of now having to deal with a generation-defining event (the COVID-19 pandemic), trauma and the experiences that trigger it in students will only increase. So, returning to normal for this generation will involve much more than just medical advances or economic improvements.

These times we are living in are challenging much of Gen Z’s daily reality-school, work, social interaction-and they will need the support of parents, teachers, and mentors to help them through it all.

Will you be the one for a student in your community?

– Jason Matthews, BTO Mentor

*The study referred to in this post led to the recent publication of “Gen Z Volume 2” by the Barna Group. A portion of the content of this post was also adapted from that study.