Resilience - Introduction

Resilience: A Practical Guide for Mentors

As a volunteer mentor, understanding resilience and its practical implementation will assist you and your Little Sister or Little Brother in building a strong, sustainable, resilient match. In this module, you'll read about relatively simple yet very important ways to enhance your mentee’s self esteem and support their ability to cope with life’s challenges and opportunities.


As a volunteer mentor, you're a champion, supporter, role model and guide. If you approach mentoring from a resilience perspective, you and your mentee will learn and grow and enjoy your time together.

  • Youth mentoring is the relationship between a caring, more experienced individual and a less experienced person, resulting in the provision of support, friendship, and constructive role modelling consistently over a period of time.
  • Research indicates positive mentoring results in: improved educational performance; healthier behaviours; improved social and behavioural outcomes; strengthened relationships; and improved resilience.
  • Resilience is most often thought of as the ability to cope with, and bounce back from, life’s challenges and demands. Research shows that to be resilient, individuals need access to the resources that stem from relationships and community supports. This means of support, known as navigation, can be provided by a mentori.
  • The same research shows that the better children are at negotiating with adults and getting what they need in ways that are meaningful and helpful to them, the more likely they are to cope well with adversity. In other words, resilience results from the interaction between the youth and his or her environment, and depends on how well the environment (including mentors, teachers, and caregivers) responds to that particular youth.
  • Young people who are supported by adults to navigate and negotiate for what they need are most likely to succeed. Recent research on factors that foster resilience among vulnerable or at-risk youth consistently identifies a close connection with a non-parental adult as a protective factor. A mentor may enhance a youth’s coping skills and promote positive socio-emotional, cognitive, and identity developmentii.
  • As a mentor, you can foster resilience in your mentee by helping them negotiate for what they neediii.
  • Keep all of this in mind when you’re with your mentee. Give them opportunities to talk through their hopes and dreams, problems or concerns, and help them find their own solutions to the challenges they confront. Find out which resources they think they should navigate toward, then help them negotiate for what they need in ways that make sense to them. Fostering resilience is a process of navigation and negotiation that occurs first and foremost through relationships.

This module will reinforce that:

  • your approach to the match relationship is critical;
  • the most effective mentors are those who find opportunities to build a caring, respectful relationship with their mentees;
  • you can support your mentee to develop in positive ways through activities and interactions that are mutually enjoyable, meaningful, challenging, and success-oriented;
  • taking a resilience approach to mentoring has the potential to permanently and positively impact both you and your mentee;
  • a simple, practical approach works − initially you may need to take the lead in the relationship, but as the connection deepens, you can encourage your mentee to play a greater role in determining the goals and aspirations of the relationship;
  • the best mentors contribute to a young person finding solutions for him or herself – as you empower your mentee, you’ll build upon your own strengths as well.