When you reflect on your own life, you can probably pin point the key adults that helped to inspire and support you over the course of your childhood and adolescence. Whether it was someone you met through a formalized mentoring program or people you knew through your school, church or community, these folks helped to shape you into the person that you have become. It is important that all kids have positive adult role models, besides their parents, throughout their lives. Research has shown that students with mentors are less likely to engage in risky behavior, like drug use and violence, and more likely to excel in their academics. As a parent, you can help to connect your child with other positive adult influences throughout your community. Whether it’s through a formal program, like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a local organized sports league and community group, or through less organized channels, it is essential that you think about the adults that your child will be working with and ensure that it is the right fit for your kid. We chatted with David Shapiro, the CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, about questions to consider when thinking about enrolling your child in a formalized mentoring program.
Mentoring has such a positive shine but it is very important to identify what your goals are for a mentoring relationship for your child. Maybe you want to expose them to different careers and opportunities in your community. Or perhaps instead you are simply looking for someone to help your child out academically. It is important to think about both your expectations and your child’s expectations on the forefront to ensure that you find something that is a good fit.
Are you hoping that the relationship will take place at a predetermined location, like the local library or your child’s school, where they meet fairly regularly during a specific time? Or do you want this mentor to visit your home and take your child on outings? Thinking about these logistics ensures that you identify a program that works for you and your child.
It is important to set your child’s expectations about the realities of different mentoring organizations. Talk to your child about how often they will meet with their mentor and what type of activities they may do. It’s also important to note that many programs have wait lists and might not be able to bring your child aboard right away. Let your child know ahead of time that he or she may have to wait until the time is right.
Mr. Shapiro suggests doing some research on the front end as you are looking into different mentoring programs. Here is his list of critical questions to ask as you look into the organizations available in your community.
- How long is your wait list?
- What kind of screening do you do for mentors?
- How do you go about matching mentors with mentees?
- How often will they meet?
- What is expected of me as a parent?
- Do I get to meet the mentor?
Parents can be a really powerful asset to mentoring organizations when they get involved. Once you choose the program that is right for your child, ask about ways that you can be involved as well. Whether you are supporting their activities or mentoring another child yourself, these organizations are always looking for more people to be involved.
You may be thinking that you have already missed the boat on getting your child involved with a mentor. Do not worry! It is never too late to try to connect your child with a mentor or a formal mentoring program. While some programs serve specific age groups of kids, there are usually a variety of program and initiatives available in different communities. Check with your child’s school, your house of worship, or search online. MENTOR has an online database of programs and you can search for one near you by using your zip code.
There are many more additional resources that parents can consult when seeking support and guidance. Included here are some links that may be helpful.
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Like any parent, I wanted my children to be successful in school, and I knew that I would have to be involved if I was going to show them I valued education.