I talk a lot about the girls that I mentor and how they order my steps. I find myself factoring my girls into most decisions that I make. In that way, being a mentor has really changed my life. And I hope that the feeling is mutual. I hope that the girls I call my mentees feel enriched when they leave our meetings, or take my advice when making decisions. But you can never be sure.
Every few months, one of my girls makes a decision that really breaks my spirit. And I grapple with the correct response. I never reprimand. It’s not my job to do so. But should I put myself in their shoes or just provide a supportive shoulder? That is not the only difficult situation that I find myself in with my mentees. But the good times make it all worth the effort, the uncertainty and the pain.
If you are considering becoming a mentor, here are a few words of advice:
1. Focus your conversations with your mentees on life skills, school, career, etc as much as possible. You don’t want to find yourself in a tough situation where a child has shared information with you that you may or may not want to hear. And then you have to make a tough decision about the best way to proceed. Don’t go into the situation thinking you’re a superhero. Help your mentee with the things that you feel most comfortable and qualified to offer advice.
2. Set early limits and boundaries. When my girls were younger, I refused to talk to them about boys and relationships. They were too young, I was too young and it was inappropriate. I let their parent(s) know this from the start and communicated it to the girls. That made things easier.
3. If you don’t have the time, don’t do it. That’s simple and plain. Being a mentor shouldn’t be taken lightly and it shouldn’t be a burden to you. If there is ever a time that you can’t keep a commitment, communicate it with your mentee and their guardian. Consistency is key, especially in the beginning.
Lastly, and this doesn’t need a number: have fun. Mentoring is one of the most relaxing things I do in my life these days. It is a serious commitment and I am fully aware of that but I also try to keep things fun and light. Mentoring is rewarding and if you have the extra time, knowledge and love to offer to someone who needs it, DO IT!