All good things must end
School-based mentoring matches often close at the end of the school year. How can mentors make the closure process as positive as possible for their mentee?
Even though the school year doesn’t end for a few more months, now is the time to start thinking about how to approach the closure of your mentoring relationship, if it is not going to continue into the summer. Abrupt endings can be hurtful and confusing to young people. To prevent hurt feelings, it is important for mentors to talk to their mentee about the closure process and discuss any plans for future contact.
MENTOR defines match closure in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring as “bringing the match to closure in a way that affirms the contributions of both the mentor and the mentee, and offers both individuals the opportunity to assess the experience.” In order to properly close their match, mentors should first ensure they understand the closure or transition process used by their mentoring program. Many school-based programs end matches in the spring and allow matches to re-commmit in the fall. Other programs provide summer activities to try to keep matches together through the summer. Some choose to have a more definitive closure with no chance for rematching in the fall, based on the youth’s grade level. Mentors should ask their case worker how the program defines match closure. Can you share your email address or phone number with your mentee? Are future visits allowed if the parents consent? If these options are allowed, still ask yourself whether you want to keep in touch. It is important to know your options and then determine what works for you.
Michigan State University Extension says that once these questions are answered, the mentor can begin to talk to the mentee. Acknowledge that the end of the school year will be here soon and that means your time together will end or change. Share your feelings about this and ask your mentee how they feel about it. It can be helpful for matches to reminisce and look back at their relationship. How are things different now than they were at your first meeting? What have you gained from the relationship? Talking about the relationship acknowledges that the relationship is important. If the program allows continued contact throughout the summer and you would like to stay in touch, now is a good time to see if your mentee would like that as well. It is important that the mentee understands that closure is not a rejection, but rather the ending of the program and your time together.
In preparation for the final visit, it can be helpful to create a gift or memento for your mentee. This can be as simple as a framed picture of the two of you, a letter telling your mentee how special they are, or a journal for your mentee to write letters to you until you see each other again. If allowed, you might set up times to talk on the phone or give your mentee some stationary and self-addressed stamped envelopes so they can write you through the summer months. Some matches choose to end with a special activity and that can be a great way to celebrate the match. Closure can bring up a variety of feelings for both the mentor and mentee. Your case manager can be a great resource in working through the process in a healthy way.