For today’s youth, a significant percentage of their total life experience has been spent navigating the worldwide upheaval that COVID-19 caused. We have now reached two years and counting. Even though an uneasy equilibrium has been reached and some semblance of normalcy seems more plausible now than it has been yet for most of the world, the effects of the pandemic will continue to reverberate.
Those ripples will arguably be most significant for the children who have missed out on crucial elements and experiences during their most important developmental periods of life.
As they navigate their coming teenage, young adult, and adult years, today’s young people can greatly benefit from having more support available to them than others might have needed in the past. One excellent way of accessing that kind of support is through finding role models.
Types of Role Models
Role models can come in many different forms. Depending on temperament, interests, learning style, and larger community, engaging with a role model(s) could look very different from person to person.
Many role models are people with whom a young person has a personal relationship of some kind. This could range from a parent or guardian to a teacher, coach, tutor, activity or club leader, school counselor, church volunteer, social worker, or any other positive figure (usually an adult) a young person has in his or her life.
These relationships provide people that can speak helpfully into a young person’s life, know him or her (sometimes very deeply or for long periods of time), help him or her navigate personal experiences and emotions, and be an important part of his or her social network.
Noteworthy or Historical Figures
However, not all role models are personal relationships. They can include figures that young people can learn about, study, or observe from afar. These can often be influential figures or thinkers in history, especially those that represent relatable minorities in particular fields or areas of interest. They might include speakers, authors, celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, or thought leaders in various areas.
A young person might discover individuals through history lessons, by watching them on tv, or learning about them through events or literature that they want to emulate. People can be tremendously important role models for young people even without ever having met them.
Correspondence Role Models
This role model category is arguably more accessible now than ever before through various multimedia and virtual platforms. A correspondence role model is any role model that is accessed or communicated with via a communication channel that is different than in-person – whether by chat, virtual meetup, or even by written letter.
This type of relationship between young person and role model should be treated with caution since some elements of “virtual” or online role modeling can lend themselves to being more discreet. Thus, this concept should only be engaged through reputable sources that are safe and aboveboard. However, in some scenarios, correspondence role models of various types can be a hugely helpful resource for young people.
This can be particularly beneficial for those that are located in rural areas, those who face difficulties accessing activities outside the home, those that have particular interests or career aspirations and want to connect with role models who are already engaged in those interest areas or careers, and more.
The Benefits of Role Models
Role models provide a number of benefits for young people:
Inspiration: This could range from inspiration to pursue a specific life goal or trajectory, inspiration for how to live one’s life in a fulfilling or successful way, or to pursue a particular life ethic or attitude.
Guidance: Role models possess additional insight, more lived experience, an outside perspective, expertise, and more. They can be invaluable resources for young people as they make decisions, navigate challenges, or pursue specific careers.
Mentorship: Some role models can speak skillfully or authoritatively into a young person’s life and character. Depending on the depth and type of relationship, some role models can mentor a young person as they navigate deeply personal subjects and encourage them to develop and grow.
Where to Look for Role Models
Role models come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you are a young person or the parent of one, there are a number of avenues that can be explored to find good role models. Schools often sponsor mentorship or role model programs. Your community might also have nonprofit organizations serving your area that pair young people with role models.
Alongside a host of other benefits, getting involved in recreational sports can be a great way to connect with role models. Pursuing involvement in activities geared for specific areas of interest (like music groups, computer or technology clubs, or extracurricular academic teams) is another promising avenue to connect with role models. Finally, youth clubs or organized activities can be a good way to connect with mentors.
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.