As Seedling mentors, our sincerest intention is that our mentees feel capable, worthy and competent. Last month’s Seedling Mentor Program training sessions offered elementary school mentors the opportunity to consider mindfulness as a successful approach to building these attributes in their mentees….and themselves!
Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present moment, letting go of
everything that is streaming through your head, and focusing on right now. Practicing
mindfulness in mentoring means letting go of your work day, your to-do list, or anything
that takes you away from being completely present and “in the moment” with your mentee.
A Non-directive approach is a wonderful companion to mindfulness when mentoring.
Based on Carl Rogers’ Child-Centered therapeutic model, the non-directive approach encourages the mentor to allow the mentee to make choices in how you spend your time together, in the activities you engage in and to allow him/her to lead the way in problem solving and making decisions. This equal partnership in the relationship empowers and affirms the mentee. Staying in the moment with your mentee as well as listening to what he/she is saying, noticing and sharing in a non-judgmental way, builds self-esteem and promotes his/her confidence.
What it means: To be in the moment, listen, understand and respond to the mentee in such a way as to aid in a greater awareness of his/her feelings. When these feelings are expressed and experienced in an accepting relationship….it promotes wellness in your mentee.
The steps you take: Be completely present when interacting with your mentee. Allow him/her to express their feelings or emotions without judgment, or sharing your opinion. Recognize your mentee’s efforts and share with him/her that you are noticing. Paying attention and actively listen to what he/she is saying, repeat back to them what you hear.
Use phrases like:
“I believe in you”
This declaration shows that you recognize your mentee’s potential. Kids need it said clearly and repeatedly. He/she may not show mastery in the task he is attempting at present, but this phrase signals you know he will get there.
“I appreciate your efforts”
When children are appreciated for their efforts, they are more likely to feel their power.
Who do they think of as powerful? The ones they want to be most like…the important
adults in their lives. When you acknowledge and validate your mentee for focusing on a
task, putting energy into it, or trying their best, your mentee is more likely to feel that his
capabilities are seen and welcomed.
“We have things in common”
Support your mentee by telling him/her when you share the same ideas. For example, if
your mentee has an idea and there’s any part of that idea that is similar to yours, be sure to
point it out, as it strengthens the feeling of connection and a sense of belonging.
Why is this a great way to mentor?
- Creates safety and builds confidence in your mentee
- Allows your mentee to be an equal in the mentee/mentor relationship
- Encourages unconditional positive regard and empathy for your mentee
- Celebrates your mentee’s uniqueness and affirms that he/she can master their environment
- Builds and enhances your mentee’s self-esteem and sends the message: “you are capable, competent and worthy”
- Promotes confidence in problem solving
- Increases your mentee’s control over his/her environment
~Seedling Mentor Program Staff
Adapted from: Mindful Resource, Mindful Resource Center (MRC),Dr. Julie Hartman and The Counselor’s Guide, The Person Centered Approach to counseling, Anna Mart