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The Building Blocks of Developing a Relationship with your Mentee

As a Seedling mentor you may wonder how you can strengthen your relationship with your mentee. The Search Institute leads the way in youth development research and has outlined several areas where mentors can strengthen their bond with their mentee. There are five elements as described by the Search Institute that a developmental relationship is built around: express care; challenge growth, provide support; share power; and expand possibilities. Below are the different ways to apply these five elements to your mentoring relationship.  

Express Care – Considered a foundation to familial and other relationships involving children, expressing care as a mentor is as simple as helping them feel connected to you. 

  • Be dependable: be consistent in visiting your mentee,  it shows them you care about spending time with them.  
  • Listen: pay attention to what your mentee says and validate what they are saying. 
  • Believe in them: make your mentee feel recognized and their voice valued. 
  • Be warm: laugh, have fun, and show your mentee you enjoy spending time with them. 
  • Encourage: praise your mentee for their achievements and efforts. 

Challenge Growth – Help them build up skills and confidence to show resilience when possible failures or other setbacks occur during their lives. 

  • Expect their best: think highly of your mentee’s ability to learn and grow. 
  • Stretch: help your mentee exceed their expectations of themselves by challenging them to explore and try things like a new challenging game or how to handle a setback they experience. 
  • Hold them accountable: help your mentee take responsibility for their choices and actions.  
  • Reflect on failures: help your mentee learn that mistakes and accidents are not final, and you can learn from them by exploring what happened and determining how to avoid the same setbacks. 

Provide Support – Whether it is listening to your mentee’s hardships, helping with homework, or how to set goals, your support as a mentor can help your mentee not feel alone when they experience challenges. 

  • Navigate: help your mentee through the hard events that may occur in their lives by listening, validating their feelings, and offering examples of how to handle different situations. 
  • Empower: help build your mentee’s confidence by giving them choices and ownership in your relationship with them. You can do this by letting them teach you a game, or show you a skill that they have learned. 
  • Advocate: stand up for your mentee when they need it. As a mentor you may possess more knowledge of what your mentee’s wants and needs are because of your relationship with them. You can also model how they can ask for help when they need it as well. 
  • Set Boundaries: put in place limits that keep your mentee on track and help them understand why boundaries are important to their success.  

Share Power – Sharing power with your mentee can help them feel invested in their relationship with you. It can also show your mentee their opinions and feelings matter just as much as yours in your friendship with them. 

  • Respect them: take your mentee seriously and treat them accordingly. 
  • Include them: let your mentee have a say in decisions regarding the mentor/mentee relationship. 
  • Collaborate: work with your mentee to solve problems, complete projects, and achieve goals. Let them know during the process that their ideas matter. 
  • Let them lead: create moments where your mentee can take charge by offering choices or asking them to teach you something.

Expand Possibilities – Sometimes mentees are not able to explore the world around them. As a mentor, you can help by introducing them to different and new things. 

  • Inspire: help them to see they have different possibilities for their future. 
  • Broaden horizons: explore new ideas and experiences by asking them what they are curious about or what interests them and why.
  • Make connections: help your mentee explore the different types of people, jobs, and places that they may find interest in.

By using these five elements during the course of your mentoring relationship, you can help create a strong and deep bond between you and your mentee. Remember, mentoring is a marathon, and these five elements can help you strengthen your relationship with your mentee over the course of time. 

Source: The Search Institute: https://www.search-institute.org/developmental-relationships/developmental-relationships-framework/ 

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