18 Tips for Mentors to Foster Resilient Mentees

Coach your mentees how to use their strengths to bounce back from adversity

Here is some great teaching. Many of the tips offered here can transform mentoring relationships. That has been my experience, as well as other volunteer adult mentors with whom I have worked in mentoring programs.

  • Focus on developing a relationship with your mentee and not on saving them.
  • Have FUN together.
  • Have positive high realistic expectations for your mentee.
  • Never quit on your mentee!
  • Meet emotional safety needs – be available to talk; sustain kindness such as a touch on the shoulder, a smile, a greeting.
  • Get to know your mentee’s strengths and gifts, and name them. Help your mentee unlock these, thus conveying the message: You matter.
  • Turn up for your meeting with your mentee when you have to! Consistency enhances the mentoring connection and relationship.
  • Encourage your mentee to create positive peer groups i.e. small groups to help build a positive community.
  • Take an interest in, actively listen to, and validate the feelings of a struggling Mentee.
  • Encourage your mentee to get involved in extracurricular activities such as art, music, cultural activities, or service activities in school.
  • Treat your mentee as a responsible person and they 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).
    • help 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 their interests.
  • Encourage your mentee to link up with another caring, trustworthy adult from outside the immediate family who they respect (teacher, youth leader, sports coach, employer, aunt, uncle or another family relative).
    • Teach your mentee the understanding of how thoughts influence feelings and behavior – problem-solving skills. By teaching mentees how to build their sense of competency in this way, they can recognize that their conditional thinking – you’re dumb, stupid, an idiot, too thin, or a loser – 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 i.e, You are not the cause – nor can you control – your father’s drinking.
    • seeing adversity as permanent i.e, This too shall pass. Your future will be different.
    • seeing setbacks as pervasive i.e, You can rise above this. This is only one part of your life experience.

-adapted from The Optimistic Child, Seligman, 1995