Decision Making - Being Sensitive to Differences

Decision Making

You and your mentee will be faced with many decisions and opportunities. Here, you’ll find guidance on how to make child-focused, ethical decisions in different mentoring situations.


The children and youth in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs vary greatly in terms of culture, ethnicity, beliefs, values, lifestyle, life situation, socio-economic status and countless other aspects. The same holds for volunteer mentors. In order to foster a successful match, it is important to be aware and respectful of the differences between you and your mentee, and to ensure that your own biases do not affect your friendship. Program staff are in a position to support and guide you.

Decision-Making Scenarios

Scenario 3: Your teenage mentee is given the opportunity to attend a summer camp, but their parents or guardians want the teenager to work at the family store over the summer. You feel strongly that camp could be a great opportunity for them because they are shy and have had difficulty making friends at school. Do you voice your opinion? If so, to whom and how would you go about it? If not, why not?

Another tough one! First and foremost, it’s important to remember that the role children and youth play varies from family to family, and that these sorts of decisions are the responsibility of the parent or guardian. That being said, if you have a strong, trusting relationship with the parent or guardian, you may feel that they would respond well to such a discussion. Before attempting to broach any sensitive subject, you should consult with your program contact. They may provide guidance or may decide that it would be better to let them handle the discussion.

Situation 4: Your mentee has recently moved to Canada. What steps could you take to ensure that you are mindful of their culture, beliefs and values?

To ensure you are mindful of your Little Brother or Little Sister’s culture, beliefs and values you could:
  • Ask your program staff if they can refer you to helpful cultural resources. They may also introduce you to other mentors with Little Brothers or Little Sisters from similar backgrounds.
  • Research the cultural practices of your mentee to identify any cultural customs you want to be mindful of while planning outings and interacting with the family. Take into account, however, that aspects of their cultural identity may be individual to the family - avoid falling victim to stereotypes.
  • Celebrate the differences between you and your mentee, and encourage them to embrace their own uniqueness! This can be done though culture nights, arts and crafts projects, or just simple discussions. It will show that you have a genuine interest in learning more about who they are, and will also demonstrate the pride you have in yourself.
  • Be careful not to make assumptions or judgments about the cultural practices, beliefs, and values of your mentee, and be mindful of how you express your opinions.
  • Consider participating in cultural events that your mentee and their family take part in.
  • Ask questions. There is probably no better way to learn about your Little Brother or Little Sister and their family!

Key Points to Remember

  • Learn about your mentee’s culture, values and beliefs. You can do this through research, asking questions, and respectfully sharing ideas. Doing so helps promote understanding and acceptance.
  • Be self-aware. It’s important to recognize your own biases and avoid imposing them on your mentee and their family.
  • Be open about your own identity. Set a good example by sharing and taking pride in who you are.
  • Celebrate your differences instead of dwelling on them. Remind your Little Brother or Little Sister often that what makes people different also makes them unique and special.