Here you are. You’ve gone through an extensive application, assessment, and training process in order to become a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Now that you’re matched with your Little Brother or Little Sister, how are things going?
Today, we know that effective youth mentoring is contingent on the quality of the relationship between you and your mentee, the nature of the interactions within the relationship, and the positive developmental, cultural, and gender-specific impact the relationship has on the menteei. In this module, we’re going to focus on “the quality of the relationship”. More specifically, we’re focusing on how your motivation, expectations, approach, and level of satisfaction are critical factors in determining the quality of the relationship.
It’s important for your mentee to be safe, happy, and engaged in this relationship. It’s equally important that you find it engaging and enjoyable. For a mentoring relationship to be strong and successful, both you and your mentee need to feel good about the match and about yourselves. In order for you to feel good about the match, you need to have a strong sense of self-efficacy. In other words, you need to believe in the value and impact of what you’re doing, and you need to continually assess and self-monitor your motivation and sense of satisfaction with the matchii. If you who feel valued by and important to your mentee, you're more likely to build a strong and lasting friendship.
In this module we explore two questions: What is important to you (motivation, expectations)? and What is your mentoring style (approach)?
- Motivation: Why did you apply to be a volunteer mentor? Are your reasons for volunteering being satisfied? Why do you think your mentee chose to participate in the program? What motivates you to maintain and strengthen your relationship with your mentee? Do you see mentoring as important to this young person?
- Expectations: Is being a mentor what you expected? Do you celebrate your successes? What happens when there are bumps in the road? How do you think the friendship will evolve? When your match closes, what do you want to leave your mentee with, and how will you part? How will you know your efforts have been a success?
- Approach: What type of a mentor are you, or would you like to be? Do you focus on fun in the relationship or future directions? Are you goal-directed? Collaborative?
Academic research and Big Brothers Big Sisters’ practical experience agree: in order to build a strong, lasting, and positive mentoring relationship (as with any valued social relationship), exploring questions like these can help shape the relationship in meaningful and positive ways. Ignoring the questions can result in unnecessary disappointment and, possibly, early match closure.
Premature match closure, particularly with matches that end without a formal closing procedure, can make a young person worse off than if they hadn’t entered into a mentoring relationship. Conversely, a well-formulated, supported, and child-focused match can have far-reaching positive benefits for both you and your mentee.
Read on to better understand how your motivation, expectations, and approach are important to a strong mentoring relationship!