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Relating to Your Mentee

Posted by on February 6, 2013

Keep in mind that gender may greatly influence your mentee’s development.

Although both genders experience the developmental stages we’ve explored in this module, boys and girls may progress through the stages at different paces. A 13-year-old girl may be in a very different place developmentally from a 13-year-old boy. Be patient with your mentee, and avoid making assumptions about her social, emotional, or intellectual development, based on her chronological age.

Be sensitive to cultural and situational differences.

A youth’s ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic background may have a dramatic impact on how he develops. For example, first-generation immigrants may recieve a lot of pressure from their parents to succeed academically. Their parents’ standards of academic excellence may far exceed your expectations, and your advice may conflict with their values.

In some families, the children are the only ones who speak English fluently, and, as a result, they may take on typically “adult” responsibilities, such as dealing with the phone company. Some parents have very limited interactions with school staff because of language barriers.

It is important to talk to your mentoring program’s case manager about these issues. Take the initiative to learn more about your mentee’s cultural background and significant issues in his life. Seek to understand your mentee’s values—and his family’s values—and try to avoid judgment.

Your mentoring program’s staff are your best resource.

Mentoring can be both challenging and rewarding. Reach out to your program’s case manager or match support specialist–your best resource when it comes to understanding your mentee and how to relate to him. Be sure to discuss with them any concerns you have about the match. The case manager may also be able to help you to access additional training and support–to help you grow as a mentor.

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