Preparing your child for a successful mentoring experience

Back to school time signals the beginning of many mentoring relationships. Is your child ready for the experience?

The new school year brings a large variety of after-school activities for students. A popular activity option is mentoring. This includes community-based, school-based, peer and small group mentoring programs. 4-H Tech Wizards is one mentoring program that looks forward to welcoming new volunteers and youth to the program this month. Staff are busy recruiting volunteers and preparing materials. Mentors are finishing their paperwork and attending mentor training. What are the young people doing? Parents can play a significant role in mentoring by helping their child understand what mentoring is and what they can expect.

Michigan State University Extension offers a few ways to help your child prepare for a mentoring relationship.

  • Help your child set realistic expectations for the mentoring relationship. Young people can have a myriad of emotions as they enter a match. You can help to calm nerves by explaining that a mentor is an older friend, someone with whom they can have fun and a person they can go to when they need to talk. It’s important that youth understand a mentor isn’t meant to take the place of anyone else – they are not a parent, teacher or counselor.
  • Some young people may think they have done something wrong and that is why they are being matched with a mentor. For this reason, it can be helpful to let your child know that everyone needs multiple mentors in their lives. Talk about your mentors and share stories about the people who offered you compassion and support while growing up. Most mentoring programs only accept youth who have the potential to form a strong mentoring relationship. When your child is selected for a program, it says that the staff believe your child is likely to form a good relationship with the mentor that is mutually beneficial.
  • Talk to your child about responsibility in relationships. Help them understand it is important to be on time for appointments and to return phone calls or emails in a timely manner. It can also be helpful to talk about how relationships require work from all parties. Encourage your child to help come up with ideas for activities.
  • Attend the match meeting yourself if possible. If not, try meeting the mentor soon. When parents are supportive and involved in mentoring, the relationships are much stronger.

It only takes a little time to help your child feel comfortable as they begin their new mentoring relationship. 

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