“Hidden Rules” of Poverty in Mentoring

Poverty is not always obvious in mentored childrenOn November 18, twenty “Seedling’s Promise” mentors came together to discuss how growing up in poverty may affect a mentee’s comments, behavior, expectations, and world view. Typically, we would use this space to share information on the same topic so that those who could not attend could benefit from the material. This effort is challenging because Seedling’s Promise training experiences are highly interactive, and handouts seldom recreate the value.

So this month, we decided to take a different approach by inviting mentors to tell us what they gained from participating in “Hidden Rules.” Here are some excerpts from their comments:

“It reminded me of that first conversation where I asked him about his Thanksgiving plans and got a sad little boy’s response to a not so fun weekend. I’m glad I learned how to handle it differently.”

“It helped me to realize I must step out of my world or rather open my mind to other people’s reality. I grew up having turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving Day, no matter how poor we might be. So I could not imagine someone not having that until my mentee changed that for me. I was unsure of how to respond to her so I ended up changing the subject. I was stuck!”

“What I got out of this training is that we all come from different backgrounds and cultures.”

When we reflect back to years past, one might remember the joy on the faces of family members sitting around the dining room table sharing stories and the fact that money was scarce is not as big a deal because of the unity and closeness they shared. Others may have had the exact opposite, presents galore but lacked in the warmth and closeness. Still others might have experienced a little of both worlds.

As mentors, it’s important to build positive memories with our little one, ensuring that they don’t feel judged, whatever their situation. My mentee, for instance, doesn’t celebrate Christmas although her mother attended the Seedling luncheon last year. I was glad she did because I saw the way she related to her children. I’ll bet she does her best as a mother to compensate in other ways so her children don’t feel isolated from what happens to be the most celebrated holiday in the world. As for my mentee and I, well, we call it “the winter break” and we leave it at that!

-Sari Waxler, Executive Director

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This entry was posted in Children in Poverty, Children with Parents in Prison, Mentoring, Mentoring Metrics, Site-Based Mentoring and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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