Mentoring relationships can be the most transformational experience in life. But mentoring relationships can also be difficult. Here are some tips to help build a strong, positive mentoring relationship:
- Be patient. Your mentoring relationship is going to advance in stages. Students may not show that they’re benefiting from a relationship with you at first. Stick with it, though, your help may be just what a student needs.
- Affirmation is important. A word of praise for an achievement can show a student that not everything in the world is critical. Be positive and sincere in your praise, whether it’s for great achievements or small victories.
- Set boundaries. Being open in a mentoring relationship is important. Most mentoring relationships develop and flourish without problems. Occasionally, however, something comes up. Mentors have an important role, but this doesn’t include replacing family or social service professionals. A mentor can help guide a young person to the appropriate source for additional help that they might not be able to provide. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to the student’s parents, teacher, or principal.
- Try to understand the student’s point of view. Even if you don’t share his or her point of view, trying to appreciate it shows you care. Who knows, you might learn a different way of looking at the world.
- Celebrate differences. Experienced mentors report that working with a young person from a different background broadened their own horizons and deepened their understanding of other people and cultures. Sometimes it is the differences that make the difference.
- Be honest. We all know that nobody’s perfect. If you make mistakes, admit it. Say you’re sorry and learn from it. Owning our faults and taking responsibility for them is a skill a child may only learn from you.
- Be there. Just the sound of your concerned voice can make a big difference in the life of a child. You don’t have to be able to fix all of their problems, but being able to listen to them can go a long way towards making things better.
- Be positive. Ask yourself, “What encouragement can I give if my young friend disappoints himself or herself?” Mentors are in the business of helping young people make the most of their lives. Allow the child to make a few “growing” mistakes when they learn new things.
- Believe. Many children in our communities struggle with self-esteem. Your faith in them can be the greatest gift you can give.