Am I REALLY making a difference?

Have you found yourself asking this question?  Maybe it's a doubt you've been clinging to and it rears its ugly head in different areas of your life such as your job, parenting, or in this case-mentoring.  In a world that measures success by tangible results, we can tend to get down on ourselves when we don't see change in our mentees.  Those who have been on the journey of mentoring for awhile now may wonder why they aren't seeing their mentee change in the way they hoped.  They may be still struggling with issues they struggled with when you first began mentoring them.  

 

Making a difference might mean to you that negative attitudes and behaviors would change for the better.  Making a difference to some of us may mean feeling really good about the new perspectives and positive feedback we are receiving from and about our mentees, right?  

 

I'm guessing we all have a different definition of what making a difference means.  But I think we can all agree that mentoring is a step-by-step journey and that mentoring is NOT a race.  Journeys have an altogether different pace than a race.  Races aren't designed for relationship-building, journeys are.  They're slower, more time-consuming, and definitely require more patience.  When one embarks on a mentoring journey, it's important to stay in step with our mentees-to hear them, be present with them, and assure them we are in it for faithful friendship.

 

Our goal is not to change behaviors, although it's wonderful to see our mentees smile and be more positive.  Our goal is not to make them successful, although we want to steer and guide them towards situations that will help them help themselves.  Finally, our job isn't to hover over them like a helicopter, analyzing and obsessing over every last detail of their lives-that's their parent's responsibility.  (Thank goodness.)

 

Faithful friendship says, "I'll take you right where you are and walk with you."

Faithful friendship says, "My mentoring skills may or may not help change your behaviors, but it's not on me.  I'm here to listen, be present, and support you in any way I can."

Finally, faithful friendship says, "I'm making a difference.  I might not see the results now or ever, but I know I'm helping improve the life of my mentee."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please know this:  Even though you might not see progress or change, you ARE making a difference by:  

*being there and being present.

*being a good listener.

*asking good questions about your mentee's struggles,

*getting them to think deeper and bringing them to good solutions.

*being that faithful friend who they can share their thoughts without being judged or laughed at.

*being kind and empathetic.

*supporting and encouraging them.

*modeling consistency, steadfastness, and faithful friendship.

*remembering that attitudes aren't always taught, they're caught.

Relationships don't always yield quick results.  There is no mentoring microwave and many times it can be very challenging.  When you get discouraged, remember to take the pressure off yourself-your mentee is not your project.  People aren't statistics.  You won't always be able to measure results on this mentoring journey, but you will catch little glimpses of change and transformation along the way,  That's super exciting-celebrate it!  In the meantime, keep modeling, walking it out one step at at time, and please.......

 

ENJOY the journey!

Don't Get Stage Fright! 

The 4 Stages of Mentoring and

What to Expect in Each One

Let's face it, as fulfilling and wonderful as mentoring is, it's hard work!  At the match meeting with your mentee, you may have felt like you were wearing a deer in the headlights look as you left the room.  "What do I do now?", you may have asked yourself.  You may have wondered if your mentee will even like you or will you like them?   Will you get along and what will you do together?  Most likely there were many questions swirling around in your head as you planned your first outing.  

You are not alone.  Many mentors start out like this-feeling awkward, uncertain, and just plain unequipped to do the job ahead of them.  That's TOTALLY normal.  Don't sweat it.  It will be JUST FINE.   As you maneuver through the next year, prepare yourself for the four stages of mentoring.  This way, you won't be surprised when the glitches and mishaps happen (and they will).  You won't panic when things aren't going smoothly or your mentee isn't picking up what you're putting down.  These four stages will give you a little glimpse into the next few months as you begin this exciting adventure.

Stage 1: Forming

This is where mentors and mentees meet for the first time and begin to develop their first impressions of each other.  It's also a time when both will put their best foot forward.  During this time, you will learn about each other, each other's interests, and break the ice.  Although the forming stage can be an apprehensive time, it's a great time to learn a lot about your mentee and what makes them tick.

Stage 2: Challenging

As the newness wears off, your mentee may start testing and challenging you.  You may feel burned out if communication starts breaking down and your mentorship may feel like it's becoming a struggle.  This is a great time to check in with your support network.  The director is there to help you during this time and will be checking in occasionally.  Also, veteran mentors have tread through these waters before and are excellent resources!  Between your director and fellow mentors, somebody will have a strategy that will help you out.

Stage 3: Growing

After moving through the testing and challenging stage, the real mentoring begins!  At this stage, there are more realistic expectations about each other's needs, strengths, and commitment to the mentorship.  This stage breathes more and gives you some space.  This is where trust is built and results can be seen and measured.  This is the sweet spot of mentoring.

Stage 4: Ending

The Ending Stage is the final stage of the mentorship.  It can be two-fold.  It is ending because the match was unsuccessful or your mentee has aged out of the program.  Although it’s a sad time, many matches continue on as friends sharing special moments and memories.  If the connection between mentor and mentee was positive throughout the mentorship, this isn't a closed door but a new chapter ahead!

Although this is a brief overview of the four stages in mentoring, it might be helpful to you on your mentoring journey so you aren't completely surprised and ill-equipped when you see obstacles come your way.  Slow down, take a deep breath, and reflect on what's going right in your mentorship.  Write down the progress points and areas of growth both in you and your mentee.  Celebrate the victories and don't sweat the small stuff.  You ARE making a difference, one step at a time.

 

 

Spring into Something New

I think Spring is here?  Many of you might be wondering the same thing as we look out the window, fretting over what we see.  Winds are howling and little dipping dots are flailing from the sky beating against the window panes.  Blah.  Go away Winter.

We know Spring will come because we see the signs.  Changes are happening all around us.  They start small, slow, and inconspicuously. 

 

A robin here. 

Snow melting there. 

And gasp!  Sunlight appears in tiny doses.

 

Seasons must change, it's the order of things.  We know this even though the evidence might point otherwise.  "It won't be long now", we tell ourselves.

As your Winter changes to Spring, what changes would you like to see in your habits, time management, or schedule?  As the clock ticks to a season transition, your season might be ready for a change as well.  You might just be feeling a pull in a new and fresh direction.

In the same season, in the same way, there may be a pull for a fresh start in the life of a youth.  They are looking, waiting and hoping for a new friend.  One who will encourage them.  Guide them.  Offer faithful friendship.  Might you be that person?

Spring is the beginning of fresh starts, new beginnings, and beautiful potential for growth.  Join us at Kinship to begin that new mentorship that brings change to just about anybody who's involved.

Spring is a reminder of how beautiful change can be.

Acknowledgment:

It Matters.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

Acknowledgement is defined as acceptance of the truth or existence of something (or someone).  I think it could be put in simpler terms.

 

The act of making a person feel human.

 

In relational or connective terms, acknowledgement might mean responding to a text, email, or phone call.  It also might equate with verbally acknowledging a person's presence as they pass you in the hallway at work with a simple hello.  Acknowledgement need not be anything overdone or fussy, but an authentic regard of reciprocity to your fellow people.

 

It seems this wouldn't be difficult in this over-connected culture we find ourselves in.  With the vast variety of communication vehicles at our fingertips: faxes, emails, snail mail, texts, phone calls, Skype-you name it, we've got it.  There's really no excuse not to respond promptly with consideration.  It's quick AND easy.

 

Sadly enough, the lack of acknowledgement has lead people to feel lonely, undervalued, and unimportant.  

 

Kids need our acknowledgement-it's vital to their emotional development.  It builds trust.  It communicates that we care for them and that they are valued by us.  We can model this important relational attribute by responding to those who reach out to us.  In our conversations with them, we can stress the importance of being considerate and reciprocal in our relationships.  Finally, by demonstrating the example of acknowledgement, it will build strong character and relationship skills that will last throughout their lifetime. 

 

Just by modeling.  Demonstrating.  And teaching.

Acknowledgment will always strengthen a mentorship.  Practice the art of acknowledgement in your mentorships and watch how they will thrive.

 

Trust. 

It's a word that carries weight.  It's an important word that is the very essence and foundation of relationship.  It can't be rushed or haphazardly implemented. 

 

It takes time. 

 

Effort. 

 

Space.

However, when the bond of trust has been built slowly and healthily, the results will astound and surprise you.

Mentorships begin and end with trust.  There's no in between.  Either the trust capacity is great or non-existent. And just like any other relationship, if the trust bond is broken, so are the people in it.  

 

Take time to build the trust.  Be trustworthy.  In your mentoring journey, build trust one step at a time.  And soon enough, you will experience quality connection, engaging conversation, and a fulfilling friendship. 

Steps of Trust

The Value of Time

The New Year is here, and if you're like most people, you may have evaluated some areas of your life that you'd like to tweak, re-evaluate, or change all together.  Maybe you'd like to shed ten pounds, pick up a new hobby, or enroll in a few classes at your local college.  Whatever your goals, you know it might cost you a few bucks,  but most certainly it will cost you time.

So many times I've heard myself say, "I have no time for this!" when in reality, I chose not to have time for that particular thing.  How we choose to spend our time doesn't equate with having no time.  We prioritize what we think will be the best use of time in our routines and schedules.

We can apply this principle of how we spend our time to extra things-things that will help or benefit others.  Mentoring is definitely a choice, an investment, and requires intention, attention, and implementation.  Time spent with a youth that often lacks attention, or is in a life transition that has been difficult or challenging, is time well spent. 

 

Investing in a child's life is never wasted.  You will know this when you see her laugh, smile, and grow in confidence by leaps and bounds.  You will witness the rewards when you see him take positive steps in the right direction by making healthy choices in his relationships, behaviors, and trying new experiences.  

There is value in time; how we spend it, who we spend it with, and what we do with it.  We hope that you will consider improving the lives the youth in our community by investing time in a mentorship.  Those who mentor will tell you, it's so worth it and holds great value.

December 26, 2019

6 Influential Mentoring Qualities

As we head into the new year, many of us like to sit down and think about goals or resolutions we'd like to set or make.  Bringing in a new year brings fresh hope and resolve to "do it better" in the new year.   Some may start a new diet, exercise regiment, reading list, etc. to get back on track after the holidays or failed tries in the past.  If you're a mentor, you may want to implement some new ideas or activities into your mentorship.  Perhaps you are evaluating what worked over the year and what didn't.

 

 Mentoring isn't for the faint of heart.  Some days it's a walk in the park, while other days require a little more grit and resolve.  If you are like most mentors, you might be asking yourself what the magic formula is for being effective and impactful in your mentorship.  You wonder how you can most positively affect and guide this young person who's been put in your care.  Most people who take their duties seriously desire to do their jobs with excellence and have a sense of accomplishment.  But when it comes to mentoring, these high standards don't always transfer to human relationship.

For starters, mentoring can't always be measured by statistics and formulaic results.   Many of us have read statistics that pertain to how beneficial mentoring is for youth, but there is a study that has a different slant to it-from the perspective of youth mentees.  In an article written by Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph. D. titled, Mentoring Youth Matters, in Psychology Today, she interviewed 40 young people who were mentored by adults.  These young people agreed that you are more likely to influence their life path if you possess the following six qualities.

 

1. You are supportive.  Reminding your mentee of their value and encouraging them through life's obstacles is highly effective and impactful.

2.  You are an active listener.  Youth don't always feel listened to.  Great mentors are quick to listen and slow to speak.  Kids need to get their thoughts out and many times they just need someone who will listen attentively.

3.  You push--just enough.  Kids like to have high standards set for them-even though it may be out of their comfort zone.  They discover what they actually can accomplish which helps build confidence in their abilities.

4.  You have authentic interest in youth as individual.  Kids can tell the difference between you being genuine or you playing a role.  They're smart that way!  When you are engaging with your mentee and appreciating their interests, thoughts, and personhood, they will feel valued by you.

5.  You foster self decision-making.  Young people like to think for themselves and when they feel judged, it stifles their decision-making process.  Good mentors won't impose their ideas on them but will encourage them to think through decisions critically.

6.  You lend perspective.  Because mentors have more life experiences and time on their side, it's helpful to guide mentees to look at each situation with a broader perspective.  They can help put challenges that seem all-consuming for youth into perspective.  

These six qualities can help you be effective and successful in your mentorship, but most importantly, they form and develop a deeper trust bond between you and your youth.  Nobody's going to do it perfectly, but with these insights from our youth, we might do it a little bit better.  Here's to a new year of mentoring and making a difference!

Connection in the Age of COVID-19

April 2, 2020 

Kinship is one of those programs that relies on relationship is its bedrock.  When you look up the word kinship, you will find these similes:

*connection

*bonding

*closeness

 

In a program based on connection and relationship, how does one go about implementing these concepts in the age of COVID-19? How does a mentor, kinskid, or reading buddy connect without personal interactions?

It's not easy of course, but in this time, technology is our friend-not our foe.  In this day and age, we have resources that are literally at our fingertips, lending us the ability to reach out and connect.  Here are some of those tools that you can utilize in this time of disconnect:

*Facetime (for those who have iphones)

*Zoom

*Good old fashioned phone calls

*Emails

*Texts

*Hand-written cards/letters

 

We can still connect in this unsettling time, and  I for one, would encourage this!  We need each other more than ever to encourage and keep each other calm, cool, and collected.  Over the years, research has shown that there are many benefits to social connection, but for the time being we will need to trade the social part of it for an electronic one.  There's still comfort knowing that your friend on the other end is doing well and hanging in there.

So please......reach out to your mentor, kinskid, friend, reading buddy, family member-whoever.  Let them know you're still there and you're thinking about them.  It might feel weird and distant, but it will make all the difference!

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