When a Mentoring Match Must End

morguefile000128761378There are three weeks left of school in central Texas.

Mentors and mentees alike are feeling reflective and emotional about closing their mentoring relationship for the summer.

The Seedling Foundation sincerely hopes that every one of them will be continued into the next school year, as research tells us match longevity is key to the lasting benefit of the experience.  However, the fact is, we cannot know what events could take place in the life of the mentor or the mentee that might make it impossible to see one another again.

This is why conversations we refer to as “closure activities” are critical to include in your May mentoring visits. Mentors can model care and thoughtfulness by initiating dialog about your relationship, letting your mentee know how special the relationship has been, remembering favorite times, sharing qualities which you admire in your mentee, describing the growth you have seen in him/her, and, in essence, saying “good-bye” for the summer.

morguefile0001721418248Include in your closure conversations all those messages of encouragement and positive regard that you would want your mentee to carry forward, even if your relationship did not continue. Consider asking your mentee if there is a topic she/he may have wanted to discuss all year that should be covered before summer break. If you plan to return in the fall, let your mentee know your intent, but avoid a promise that might not be kept. Give your mentee a memento with a written message that she/he may keep as a reminder of your special times together.

morguefile0001154350520In the November, 2014 Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring, Dr. Jean Rhodes shares the effects of a healthy closure that is planned with consideration and care. “All terminations, even planned ones that follow successful relationships, can evoke conflicting emotions and defensive reactions. How relationships end, however, can color the ways that mentees think about their entire experience. In addition to preventing feelings of abandonment and loss, a well-handled termination can provide a healthy model for sharing feelings around other losses in adolescents’ (and children’s) lives.  To read the full article, click the link.

~Seedling’s Mentor Program Staff

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Summer Expectations in Mentoring

Mentee with Summer Flower

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My mentee is thrilled about summer, right?

Who wouldn’t be happy about having no homework, sleeping a little later, and playing outside in the sunshine? But summer may include some other differences for your mentee.

You might be surprised by some issues that could result in subtle signs of anxiety in your next few visits. For many children, school represents a place of predictability and physical and emotional safety, feelings that may be diminished or absent in the three months of summer. How can a mentor help?

A good open-ended question such as “What do you think your summer will be like?” can open the door. Use your best active listening skills to watch for small changes in tone, facial expression or body language, and invite your mentee to talk about feelings.

Other questions might be:

 How will you spend your time away from school this summer?

 Who will you be with? (How old is your cousin?)

 Is there any part of the summer that you are really looking forward to?

 Is there any part of the summer that you’re worried about?

 Who do you talk to in the summer when something is bothering you?

 What do you usually do about lunch in the summer? **See below.

Talk about qualities in friends who are “good” and friends who are “not so good”. This conversation may also be an opportunity for personal sharing. For example, you can let your mentee know the tricks and self-talk you use when faced with inadequate personal space or with inevitable boredom.

Check out the section in this post about end-of-year gifts that may help. And last, if your mentee describes glorious summer plans that make you doubtful, avoid asking for details that can require a child to continue making up facts. Instead, ask open-ended questions that allow the child to explore the would-be adventure, such as “I wonder…what do you suppose that would be like – to visit Disney World?”

**Summer Food Service Program: Hunger does not take a summer vacation, and for kids who rely on free or reduced price school lunches for their main meal of the day, summer can be a hardship. Monday through Friday, children 18 and under are welcome to enjoy nutritious lunches at any of the Capital Area Food Bank’s federally funded Summer Food Service Program sites. No registration or identification is needed. At press time, the listing of summer food program sites and maps of locations was not yet available for 2015. For updates, visit http://www.austinfoodbank.org and http://www.squaremeals.org/ Programs/SummerFeedingPrograms.aspx or inquire in the school office.

Have a wonderful summer, and thank you for all you do for Seedling’s children!

~Seedling’s Mentor Program Staff

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Making the Most of Spring Mentoring

Ending Strong by Remaining Curious

Listening Mentor“What we want to tell, we wish our friend to have curiosity to hear.”  Samuel Richardson

Three weeks in April and four in May; there are only seven more visiting opportunities before the school year concludes, and your communication with your mentee takes a summer break. With the end drawing near, your mentee could be experiencing a variety of positive and negative emotions, such as pressure to improve grades, excitement about end-of-year activities, anxiety about summer unknowns, and so on. Sometimes physical and emotional weariness – from the mentee or the mentor — can lead to those “dial-tone days” when visits feel flat and unrewarding. How can you keep your relationship progressing and satisfying for you both?

Dr. Julia Pryce tells us the key is mentor attunement, defined as the adult capacity to remain curious about a child. The idea of curiosity naturally makes us think of asking questions. While well-placed open-ended questions can play an important part, remaining curious refers more to creating safety and interest around what the mentee has to say. Dr. Pryce advises that we can improve our attunement through keeping these five skills in mind1:

  • Active listening – expressing interest or appreciation for the mentee’s sharing, repeating back what you heard, allowing the mentee to name the feeling (although sometimes you may need to help with the words), remaining compassionate and nonjudgmental, allowing the mentee time to think.

Continue reading

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Complicated Moments in Mentoring

Those complicated moments in mentoring…..Mentor puzzle piece

Have you experienced one yet?  If not, get ready…. at some point your mentee may just say something that causes you to wait, worry and wonder…… “What should I do?”

Those complicated moments in mentoring can sometimes create stress and worry, leaving even the most seasoned mentor to wonder, what should I do?

At last month’s Seedling Mentor Training, Mentor Directors challenged participants to consider some common mentoring dilemmas highlighted in The Mentor’s Field Guide” and engaged mentors in discussing how best to respond with authenticity and care.

Mentor Dilemma- My mentee and I come from different economic, cultural, racial, or ethnic backgrounds.  How can I honor and accommodate these differences? Continue reading

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When A Parent Comes Home

Child-Father“Do you believe a parent’s release from incarceration is more difficult for the parent or the child?”

Mentors who attended our January Seedling’s Mentor Training were asked to consider and respond to this complex question which deeply affects our mentees.

The varying responses of the group led to a candid dialogue about the sobering challenges awaiting individuals released from prison.

Unless a loved one takes them in, basic needs such as housing, food, and employment are not readily accessible.  Continue reading

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