For many children and young people, your relationship with them, as their mentor, is a lifeline to a better future. You offer change and hope by introducing new opportunities, experiences and ideas about how the world works.

Often, during this process they glimpse and even recognise their authentic selves. A previously unrecognised understanding of who they really are. Of necessity, if they’ve had a tough time, through a process of adapting to dysfunction and even abuse, they will have invented and created a self that has a better chance of surviving than their vulnerable, sensitive and defenceless childhood selves. They may survive but may not thrive.

The real self will be disguised, protected and hidden from sight as a survival strategy, sometimes and even often, for their whole lives.

Unfortunately, through their own reactions, those around them, on whom the child most depends, can ensure the real self remains locked away. Sadly, the real self may never emerge or re-emerge. It may be entirely lost and forgotten.

This is a consequence of toxic relationships.

As a mentor in such a child’s life, you introduce the possibility of a detox. Little by little, you catch sight of the genuine article and by relating to it and valuing it through your interactions, you slowly uncover the real McCoy and you just keep uncovering and building brick by brick. It’s a restoration job. You are enabling learning and growth and you are helping to create a masterpiece.

Human relationships can do this. We should never underestimate them. They may represent the most influential, therapeutic and creative experience we ever come across.

We can be more conscious of their power to find potential, capabilities, qualities and talents and recognise positive relationships as the most important influence in our lives. By including this recognition as a default value and priority, as a given, we may then begin to influence our communities and even society to pay more attention to them. To see them as our greatest resource, and plan to value, encourage and protect them in all our endeavours.

“Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult”

A few hours each week listening, coaching, caring, encouraging and supporting can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

Rod Salter

PROMISEworks