There is no doubt that a successful mentoring friendship can have a lifelong positive impact on the life of a child or youth. But have you considered the potential impact of a match that is unsuccessful or ends prematurely? Research has shown that a negative mentoring experience can lead to great disappointment, and in some cases make matters worse for the child or youth than before they participated in the match. This fact underlines the importance of commitment and consistency in the match, even when the going gets tough or life gets busy.
Scenario 1. Outings with your mentee are not going as you had hoped and you are thinking of ending the match. What things should you consider before making a decision? What other courses of action could you take?
Before taking a decision to end your match, consider that:
- Ending a match prematurely can have a negative impact on your mentee. They may blame themselves, or see it as a form of abandonment.
- Friendship, trust and openness can take time to develop, especially with children and youth who may have experienced a lack of attachment to others or been let down by adults in the past. It’s important to exercise patience.
- Though it may sometimes be hard to tell, your mentee depends on you and looks forward to your visits.
Other courses of action you can take:
- Communicate openly with your mentee and their parent or guardian about issues affecting the match. This may completely change your perspective and give you new insight into how to approach the match.
- Seek the help of program or site-based staff. They can help you explore why the match isn’t going as you’d hoped, and may propose different approaches, activities or ideas that will help with your match.
- Re-evaluate your expectations. If things are not going as you had envisioned, speak with the program staff. They can support you in creating smaller, more realistic aims for the match. This can change your perspective and help you see the difference you are making.
- Talk to other mentors at agency-organized activities. They may have had similar experiences and may have some good advice to provide.
We often hear volunteer mentors express how they had no idea how important they were to their mentee, especially at the beginning of their match. It’s important to keep in mind that it may be weeks, months or even years before the full benefit of the friendship becomes clear. Keep confident that you ARE making a difference!
Scenario 2. You have an unpredictable work schedule that makes it hard to commit to an activity. Of late, you have had to cancel several outings with your Little Sister or Little Brother, and you know this has disappointed them. What measures could you take to prevent disappointing them in the future?
To prevent disappointing your mentee in the future, you might want to:
- Schedule outings during a time when you know you will be available. Sounds silly, right? If you have that nagging feeling that you’re making a commitment that you’re going to cancel, rethink it so the time you select will work for you.
- Make arrangements with work or family to ensure that you have a block of time every week where you will be able to meet one to one with your mentee.
- Consider whether you are setting your sights too high. Are you cancelling because the outing logistics are too much?
- Work with the parents or guardians and program staff to determine the best way to fulfill your commitment.
In some matches the mentee or their parents or guardians, may be the ones cancelling outings or showing reluctance to schedule activities. Talk with your program staff – they will help you navigate through this.