18 Tips for Mentors to Foster Resilient Mentees

  • Focus on developing a relationship with your mentee and not on saving him/her.
  • Have FUN together.
  • Have positive high realistic expectations for your mentee.
  • Never quit on your mentee!
  • Meet emotional safety needs – being available to talk; sustaining kindness such as a touch on the shoulder, a smile, a greeting.
  • Get to know your mentee’s strengths and gifts. Help him/her unlock these, thus conveying the message:You matter.
  • Turn up for your meeting with your mentee when you have to!
  • Encourage your mentee to create positive peer groups ie, small groups to help build a positive community.
  • Take an interest in, actively listen to, validate the feelings of a struggling Mentee.
  • Encourage your mentee to get involved in extracurricular activities eg, art, music, cultural activities, service activities in school.
  • Treat your mentee as a responsible person and he/she will react accordingly in a physically and psychologically safe and structured environment. Examples:
    • ask questions that encourage self-reflection, critical thinking and dialogue (especially around relevant social and personal issues).
    • make learning more experimental, as in in-service learning (do something within the community together).
    • helping others through community service, peer helping, co-operative learning.
    • use participatory evaluation strategies.
  • Encourage your mentee to keep friendship groups as diverse as possible and, wherever possible, to have at least one circle of friends outside of school.
  • Encourage your mentee to join a youth club, sports club or some other club that caters for his/her interests.
  • Encourage your mentee to link up with another caring, trustworthy adult from outside the immediate family who she/he respects (teacher, youth leader, sports coach, aunt, uncle etc.).
    • Teach your mentee the understanding of how thoughts influence feelings and behaviour – problem-solving skills. By teaching mentees how to build their sense of competency in this way, they will recognize that their conditional thinking – you’re dumb, stupid, an idiot, too thin, a loser etc. – is a lie and they can remove blocks to their innate resilience.
    • Encourage your mentee to read, as cognitive competence has been identified as one of the hallmarks of resiliency.
    • Nourish your own resilience and well-being so you can be a positive role model!
  • Help your mentee to avoid:
    • taking personally the adversity in their lives ie, You are not the cause – nor can you control – your father’s drinking.
    • seeing adversity as permanent ie, This too shall pass. Your future will be different.
    • seeing setbacks as pervasive ie, You can rise above this. This is only one part of your life experience.

-adapted from The Optimistic Child, Seligman, 1995