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Healthy Closure Review

Mentoring relationships end at different times, for a variety of reasons.  You may find out it is no longer possible to leave the office to mentor, or your mentee’s poor school attendance may make it difficult to meet consistently. Occasionally, without warning, your mentee withdraws from school and moves away. Sometimes, a mentee finds themself ready to soar on their own, to face all of life’s challenges with the tools mentoring has helped them develop and they request to end the mentoring relationship. Even though these things happen, being able to say goodbye, or having closure, is an important stage in the relationship and cannot be skipped. The students we serve have already experienced painful goodbyes; mentors must do everything we can not to be another unexplained farewell. How your relationship ends can color the way your mentee thinks about the entire mentoring experience.  Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your closure, mentors can plan ahead for healthy closure by implementing these best practices:

  • Make a firm resolution that you will try to make the relationship last as long as you can when it is to the benefit of your mentee. Research is clear that longer is better, and  a relationship that ends in fewer than three months is more damaging than if there had never been a relationship at all.
  • Plan a “mini-closure” at the end of the school year, even if you have plans to return next year. Tell your mentee that you are hopeful  the two of you will be together again, but if it does not work out, you treasure the time you have spent together.
  • Practice caution when assuming your mentee no longer needs you. Mentors do not know what is in their mentee’s head or even what is in their life outside of you. For example, we have no evidence that a parent’s release means that the mentor is no longer needed. A student under stress can be hard to deal with, but it may be when you’re needed most. Your Mentor Director can help you develop strategies for addressing any challenge you may face in the mentoring relationship.
  • Good closure happens over several (at least two) meetings with your mentee. Take the time to allow for the reality to set in. Share memories and what you are proud of regarding your mentee’s growth, and share wishes for their future. It’s critical to arrange closure in such a way that your mentee does not feel at fault. In the absence of a story, your mentee may fill in their own, and it usually includes self-blame.
  • In the event you do not get to have an in-person goodbye, a written goodbye is a must.  Ask your Mentor Director about writing a closure letter to help get you started. Seedling makes every effort to locate mentees in their new school in order to reconnect matches or deliver closure letters.
  • Sometimes when a relationship closes for good, a mentor promises to stay in touch. Please resist this urge as it can only prolong the goodbye and leave the child with unfulfilled expectations. Being clear about goodbye and practicing healthy closure is a gift you are giving to your mentee. You are modeling healthy relationships. The magic of Seedling mentoring is not in what the mentee learns from you. It’s what the child learns about relationships by interacting with you.

Mentors have feelings about saying goodbye too! Your Mentor Director is here to support you, to listen, guide, and help you process your feelings. Uncertain about how to say goodbye in a meaningful way? Here is a list of activities that could help make closure a positive experience for both mentor and mentee.

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