What can you expect from your mentoring relationship?

Navigating the stages of the mentoring relationship: contemplation, initiation, growth and maintenance, decline and dissolution, and redefinition.

As young people mature, they begin to build relationships with people outside of their families. For some, this might take the form of building a new friendship or professional relationship. Since people are constantly changing and growing, their relationships are also changing and growing. Relationships aren’t static. Relationships tend to go through certain stages as people progress from meeting for the first time to developing an intimate bond. Thinking of mentoring relationship in terms of other relationships can help mentors, mentees and parents understand the stages the relationship will likely go through. Remember that some stages are unique to this type of relationship.

While this development might seem natural in other relationships in your life, it can sometimes be difficult to remember the stages of relationship development as you enter a mentoring relationship with a young person. This series will review the five stages of relationship development in mentoring as defined in the “Handbook of Youth Mentoring (2005):” contemplation, initiation, growth and maintenance, decline and dissolution, and redefinition. Michigan State University Extension recommends volunteers and youth learn about these stages. Mentors, mentees, parents and guardians are more likely to have realistic expectations for the mentoring relationship if they understand the stages of relationship development.

It’s important to note that in real life, two people don’t often neatly progress through relationship stages. They may skip steps, move backward or frequently flip-flop between two stages. The decision to move forward and progress to the next stage is up to both people, as is the decision to end the relationship. All relationships move at different rates. Mentors shouldn’t feel pressured to have their relationship develop at the same rate as other mentoring relationships – each relationship is unique and will grow at its own rate. In group mentoring relationships, it is common for mentors to be in a different stage of development with each mentee.

The next article in this series will explore contemplation, the first stage of development in mentoring relationships.

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