Resilience - Pre-Module Excercise

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.


1. Your mentee tells you she feels ugly and dumb. Your first response should be:

a) But you’re not ugly and dumb.
b) I know you feel that way. I’m not certain why you do, but maybe we can figure out what will help you feel better.
c) If you keep feeling that way, no one will want to be with you.
d) I really get upset when you say those things.

b. In most situations when we hear young people say negative things about themselves, our first inclination is to tell them that they are not that way at all. This kind of support, even if rooted in the best intentions, represents a missed opportunity to validate how the young person is feeling and, consequently, compromises effective communication. Validating what young people say does not mean you agree with them, but rather that you have taken the time to understand them. The feeling that one has been heard and validated is a critical component in helping young people develop resilience. Such validation will prompt your mentee to seek solutions to her negative feelings.

You might respond to your mentee’s negative statement by saying, "I know you feel that way and I’m sorry you do. It isn’t how I see you. Let’s talk about how you feel, and help you to see yourself differently." This kind of statement is more likely to prompt her to seek solutions to the negative feelings. If your response is critical, such as "no one will like you if you feel that way" your mentee will be less prone to examine and change her behaviour. Let her know that you like her, value the time you spend together and hope she will begin to see how special she is to others. But your first message should be one of empathy that validates how she is feeling about herself.

2. When your mentee is successful at a task, you can reinforce a resilient mindset by saying:

a) I’m glad I was here to help you, since you would not have been able to do it on your own.
b) It was great to see how you figured that out.
c) Now that you see you can succeed, you shouldn’t make excuses for not trying something in the future.
d) All of the above.

b. Resilient youth delight in and take realistic credit for their successes. Their sense of accomplishment and pride gives them the confidence to persevere the next time they face a challenge. It is important for you as their mentor to acknowledge and highlight the ways in which your mentee contributes to his own success. If were to respond with a or c above, he might develop the mindset that his achievements are not truly his own, and his sense of accomplishment might be diminished.

3. What’s the best way to deal with mistakes:

a) Use a mistake as an opportunity to learn how to solve problems when things go wrong.
b) Teach your mentee that mistakes are to be avoided.
c) Lower your expectations so that your mentee will never make mistakes.
d) Ignore them.

a. Children and youth are acutely aware of how adults deal with setbacks and failure. If they see you react to your own mistakes by remaining calm and seeking more effective solutions, they are less likely to fear mistakes and more likely to discover what they're truly capable of. Remind them mistakes are a natural part of life. Most mistakes serve as learning opportunities, so if you model a positive response to your own setbacks, this will help your mentee develop a resilient mindset. It’s also important that we don’t over-protect or lower our expectations for our mentees, and that we provide them with manageable amounts of risk so that they are likely to succeed more often than not.

4. Which of the following will help your mentee feel cared for, special, and appreciated?

a) Creating traditions and special times with him.
b) Making certain not to miss significant events.
c) Accepting your mentee for who he is, not what you want him to be.
d) All of the above.

d. One of the most powerful messages you can give your mentee is accepting them as they are. Sharing your time and being willing to listen shows how much you value your mentee. When nurturing resilience, actions speak louder than words. Of course, your mentee may not always fulfill your expectations (nor you his!), but it is important that your acceptance not waver. If children and youth constantly feel that they have disappointed significant adults in their lives, it is difficult for them to develop a more optimistic, hopeful outlook. Try to assess your expectations, and make modifications when needed.