Mentor Corner

F.A.Qs, Activites & Resources for Mentors

Your commitment to making a difference in the life of a child is an important one.

This will be a rewarding endeavor, both for you and your mentee. There may be bumps and turns along the way, but hopefully with your training, our commitment to supporting you, and the resources below, you’ll be prepared for anything that comes up on your mentoring journey!

Remember, your first line of support should be the school coordinator if any questions or concerns come up regarding your mentee. We are here to help children and some of them may have a history of issues that the school is already well aware of. They are your partners in building meaningful relationships with these kids. Talk to them and get to know your mentee’s support system and any plans they may already have in place for him or her.

Your second line of support is Connecting Generations. Our relationship does not end with your training! We are always here to support you, answer questions, help you deal with mentoring problems, and intercede with the school, if necessary. You are important to us and we are so glad to have you working with us!

Below, we have Frequently Asked Questions from Mentors and some activities and resources that you may find helpful. Take advantage of all we have to offer!


Application and Placement Process

Q: I have finished my training. Now what?
A: If your application process is complete, you will receive an email from Connecting Generations and the school coordinator to get you started.
Q: It has been two weeks since I received confirmation that my application is complete, and I have not heard from the school coordinator. What should I do now?
A: Please call or email Connecting Generations so we can check in with the school coordinator and get an update. We NEED to hear from you if you have not been contacted.

Student and the Relationship

Q: Why is a child chosen for the program? How is the match made?
A: There is no specific answer to these questions since each program is run differently. Some need a positive adult role model; some need a friend. Children selected for mentoring are likely to be described by a teacher with the statement, “if I just had an extra half-hour or hour to spend with that child, it would make all the difference in the world.”

Mentors are not there to “save” the child, rather they are there to enhance that child’s growth and development, to discover his/her unique gifts and talents, and to help the child reach his or her potential.

Q: It has been two weeks since I received confirmation that my application is complete, and I have not heard from the school coordinator. What should I do now?
A: Please call or email Connecting Generations so we can check in with the school coordinator and get an update. We NEED to hear from you if you have not been contacted.
Q: What if the child doesn’t like me? What if this isn’t a good match?
A: The overwhelming majority of matches work just fine. In those rare instances where the match doesn’t work, it’s important to let your mentor coordinator know so that both you and your mentee can be rematched.
Q: Should I mentor the same child more than one year?
A: By all means! The longer the relationship lasts the more impact it has on both the mentee and the mentor. We encourage mentors to follow their mentees for as long as possible, even when the mentee changes schools if it is still convenient for the pair.
Q: My student switched school. Can I follow him/her to the new school?
A: We encourage mentors to follow their student. Call Connecting Generations and ask if the student’s new school is a Creative Mentoring partner. If they are, we can introduce you to the student’s new mentor coordinator and make sure that he or she has all of your application documents so you can get started right away. If they are not, we will help you work with the school to help you get started.
Q: What if I can’t be there every week for my mentee? What if I travel on my job or take long vacations during the mentoring year?
A: Consistency is the most important quality a mentor brings to the relationship. Children count on their mentors to be there for them. They look forward to the sessions, frequently asking daily if “today is the day” their mentor comes to school.

Of course, no one is capable of perfect attendance all the time. Children do understand when mentors must miss an occasional session, or when mentors have to travel occasionally on business. If you know ahead of time that you will have to miss a session or a couple of weeks, be sure to inform both the child and the school coordinator. If you’re traveling you might also help prepare the child by spending a session or two sharing with your mentee about your destination.

On the other hand, if your work or life style consistently interrupts your mentoring schedule, you would be best to consider another volunteer assignment. Inconsistent mentors do more harm than good.

Q: How can I get my mentee to open up to me?
A: Do not expect your mentee to start opening up right away. Relationships take time to grow and some trust needs to be built up before the mentee becomes comfortable talking with you. They may be afraid they’ll get in trouble if they’re honest, or that you won’t like them if they say certain things. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with yes or no. Let them know that you are nervous too. Be patient and consistent with your visits, and remember that just doing things together will foster an open, trusting relationship.
Q: How should I respond if my mentee asks personal questions about me?
A: The best response is to answer in broad general terms, and if the child persists, ask them why they want to know, or what it is they’re concerned about. There is usually a reason why they’ve asked that question, and that is where you should direct the conversation.
Q: I can’t see that I’ve made any difference in the child’s life. She seems to have the same attitudes and behaviors as when we started.
A: Be patient. Affecting change takes time and you may not see any difference for a long time. But your efforts are not wasted, and eventually you may notice some ideas or even some of your phrases or mannerisms have “stuck.” Remember that this is a relationship, and like all relationships will have advances and setbacks. Also remember that the child has other things going on in his or her life that will influence his or her behavior and attitudes. If you remain dedicated you will make a difference in the long run.
Q: My mentee is unappreciative. How should I handle this?
A: Part of your job as a mentor is to be a good role model for the child. They may never have learned to say thank you. In that case, make it a point to model that behavior for the child. If the child knows how to say thank you but just doesn’t, it is all right to remind them that saying thank you is customary and polite. Often it is helpful to phrase it as an “I” message, such as “I like it when you say thank you to me because then I feel appreciated.”

Appropriate Roles and Activities

Q: What should my relationship with the child’s parents be?
A: Connecting Generations does not encourage a direct relationship between the mentor and the parent. Check with your individual program about this issue. In most cases, the program will prefer that the mentor and parent communicate through the school or program coordinator. It’s fine if the mentor comes to a school function to support his/her mentee and meets the parents at school.
Q: Can I take my mentee out to lunch or to a movie on the weekends?
A: No. Connecting Generations does not allow meetings with the child beyond the site. There are obvious reasons for this: parents have usually given permission limited to site-based meetings, liability issues should there be an accident, lack of supervision, etc.

If you wish to move your relationship with your mentee beyond the school or site, our recommendation would be to investigate the possibility of you and your mentee becoming part of a recognized community-based mentoring program such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. Many mentors have bridged the two distinct types of relationships in this manner—protecting all concerned.

Q: Can my mentee and I continue to meet in the summers?
A: No. There are several ways to “bridge the summer gap”. For example, you can give your mentee a journal at the end of the school year to work on over the summer. When you get back together in the fall you can share stories about what you did while you were apart.
Q: Can I be in touch with my mentee via social media, e-mail, or texting?
A: Mentors should not have any contact with their mentees via social media websites, cell phones, or email. Mentors should never give their personal contact information to a mentee, and should not take contact information from their mentees.
Q: What about touch?
A: So much concern has arisen about inappropriate touch or being accused of inappropriate touching, that many new mentors are afraid to be physically close to their mentees. Young children—especially in the primary grades—need touch to relate to the world. Schools understand this. A pat on the shoulder or the back, a “high five”, a handshake, or even a hug can be very appropriate when working with a child.
Q: What about gifts?
A: This is probably the most often asked question. Mentors want to give gifts and they want definite guidelines to help them decide what approaches are in the best interests of the child. Connecting Generations’ policy is:

  • Gifts should be small and meaningful—reflecting something special in the mentor/mentee relationship
  • Gifts should be given infrequently—e.g. birthday, holidays, end of year. (Be sure that gift giving isn’t forbidden by the child’s religious practices.)
  • There’s a difference between a gift and letting the child keep a project you’ve worked on together.
Q: What if my mentee needs something I can easily give—like a coat?
A: When faced with this type of dilemma, it’s important to remember which roles are appropriate and which are inappropriate for mentors. Providing the “basics” for your mentee puts you in the role of parent. That is clearly someone else’s job. One of the mentor’s jobs is to always honor the parent’s position in the child’s life and never compete with the parents for the child’s attention or affection.

That is not to say, however, that there is nothing you can do to help.

Mentors often wish to donate clothing and other basics they see their mentees needing. Most schools and site-based programs have on staff someone in a social worker type role. (In schools this is usually the school nurse.) It’s often possible to donate an article of clothing, if you are willing to do so anonymously. Acting as a go-between, the nurse or social worker can check with this family to see if they would accept the donated article. Whether they accept or not, it would compromise your role as mentor if they were to know you were involved.

Q: What if my mentee needs money for a field trip or to purchase holiday gifts for his family?
A: As far as money is concerned, the rule of thumb is to remember that the mentor’s gift is his or her time.
Q: My mentee is always asking me to buy him things (or give him lunch money or a pen or…)
A: As a mentor your gift to the child is your time. Do not feel obligated to provide items that the child wants. For items like lunch money or a pen or pencil the school probably already has a process set up. The child will not go hungry if you do not provide lunch money. Ask your coordinator what the process is, and when the child asks just tell him what he needs to do. Or simply say that no, you don’t do that. The child will stop asking for things if you are consistent in saying no.
Q: My mentee doesn’t seem interested in any activity I suggest.
A: Try to find out what your mentee is interested in, and use that to plan activities for the two of you. Ask the child what he or she would like to do with your time together. Remember that the relationship should be child-driven, that is, tailored to the child’s wants and needs. You can get ideas about activities to suggest to your mentee by visiting the Mentor Corner.
Q: My mentee has told me a serious secret in confidence. I feel it is something his parent should know.
A: If you suspect the child is being abused or neglected, you must report your concerns directly to the state: 1-800-292-9582. Visit the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families for more information about how to report child abuse and neglect. For any other concerns, speak with your mentor coordinator or the school’s guidance counselor.