Training and support are the cornerstones of the Seedling’s Promise Mentor Program for children with a parent in prison. Boundaries are often slippery and difficult to define, so the Seedling Mentor Directors train our Mentors in setting and maintaining them for the health of the relationship. In our site-based mentoring program, we are aided by the Campus Professionals at Austin Independent School District in a partnership that fosters and supports the mentor matches.
The following scenarios were shared by Seedling staff as stories from their own mentoring relationships. This is the first in a series of articles about boundary issues.
Topic: Meeting the mentee’s basic needs
Scenario: When the mentor met the student’s caregiver at the Seedling luncheon, the caregiver shared openly about her financial struggles. The mentor learned that the children were sleeping on the floor, and that the family didn’t have hot water in the house. The mentor’s first thoughts were to pay the bill and buy beds for the children. After reflecting, the mentor realized that providing financially for the family was outside her role as a mentor and could have unintended consequences, including altering the mentee-mentor dynamic, her first responsibility.
Conclusion: The mentor worked with the Parent Support Specialist on the campus to identify resources for the family and was able to contribute anonymously to help offset unmet needs.
Topic: Including friends in the mentoring relationship
Scenario: The mentee asked repeatedly if a friend could join them during their mentoring session and pouted when the mentor declined. The mentor reflected on the reasons it isn’t appropriate for another child to join them. She considered the legal reason; she doesn’t have permission to meet with the other child, and there could be unintended consequences. She also considered the long-term impact on the relationship: 30 minutes to meet is a brief time, and including friends would dilute the benefit of the 1:1 relationship. The mentor also reflected on what might be causing the mentee to want a friend to come along. Is there something that’s missing for the mentee? What would bringing a friend along provide? Entertainment? Ease in talking?
Conclusion: The mentor gently explored the mentee’s reasoning to see if there was an unmet need to be discovered. Mentors should also do a mental self-inventory to assess honestly if s/he is tempted to give in, and why? Would it be to please the mentee? To ease the mentor’s pressure in the relationship? To help with conversation?
Want to learn more? Click for “On Boundaries,” an informative PDF that explains what healthy boundaries are and their benefits in a mentoring relationship.
By Falba Turner, Project Director for Seedling’s Promise Mentor Program