Are you looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity? Mentoring youth can be simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. Make the experience meaningful and engaging for you and your mentee with a few of these strategies:
Make sure you have the time to devote. Successful mentoring requires consistency and availability. Plus, if you are a mentor to a kid who may have already experienced a great deal of disappointment in life, that consistency and availability will help instill confidence in the relationship.
Keep your mind open to differences between your family backgrounds, cultures and socioeconomic circumstances. This means you should be as willing to learn as you are to teach. Focus on creating a safe and healthy environment to look for common ground, do things you both enjoy, and learn from each other.
Communicate regularly. Aside from scheduled face-to-face meetings, use video chat, texting, email or social media platforms to bring more presence to the relationship. Make sure these avenues of communication are appropriate first.
Create learning situations. Volunteer together, attend a lecture, take a class, teach a specific skill or hobby, give education or career advice, or even expand your mentee’s network by introducing him to other community members, professionals or students.
Give feedback when asked but don’t force your process or ideas. It’s often more helpful to ask questions, so your mentee can work problems out himself. This helps your mentee develop thinking skills and trust his own judgment.
Discover mentoring opportunities with these sites:
- Volunteer Match: Search by zip code throughout the United States.
- America’s Promise Alliance: Mentor, work with youth groups, or help in classrooms and museums.
- generationOn: Access resources to start your own generationOn Kids Care Club.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is to be yourself. It’s the most effective way to strengthen the relationship with your mentee.
Sources: United Way, Parents.com, NYMetroParents