Research tells us that young people who face daily adversities experience long-term, harmful disadvantages; biologically, emotionally, and economically (toxic stress research). This harm is costly to the individual, to communities, and to society as a whole. By no fault of their own, children are born into circumstances that can cause high levels of stress. Some common sources of stress include living in poverty, being separated from a biological parent, being bullied at school or witnessing violence. These stressors can cause irreversible trauma to a developing body and mind.
Through mentorship, Big Brothers Big Sisters can ensure that adversities faced in childhood do not define a young person’s adulthood. We intervene with a caring adult who creates a buffer between the child and their daily stressors. The trusting relationship built between Mentee and Mentor protects the Mentee’s healthy development. Science shows that providing stable, responsive, nurturing relationships to young people can prevent or even reverse the damaging effects of early life stress, with lifelong benefits for learning, behavior, and health.
Put simply, relationships play a powerful role in preventing long-term health problems, making mentorship an essential intervention for children who live with adversities. New research urges service providers to reach young people early in life and Big Brothers Big Sisters services do just that. Across the country, we work to reach young people during their critical years of development (7 to 11) so that our intervention has a chance to buffer childhood stress and ignite a child’s unique potential.
For over 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has believed in the empowering and protective power of mentoring. Most recently, health scientists and youth development experts are agreeing; that a supportive, committed relationship with an adult can contribute to positive youth development, physical health and life-long success. If we can provide every young person who is struggling with a supportive Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentor, individuals will thrive, communities will prosper, and the future is promising.