The Youth Mentoring Network

Mentors | Volunteers

Fact Sheets | Resources

When you are mentoring a young person a variety of matters are likely to come up which you may need to seek some further advice on.  Your programme coordinator should be able to assist. You may also find the fact sheets we have collated and publised here of help too. These cover a wide range of topics from Helping your mentee to explore their identity and culture to dealing with confidentiality in your mentoring relationship. The full list of 19 fact sheets are included here. Click on the links to download.  (the majority are just 2 pages long). 

Fun activities to bring to your mentoring sessions

When you are stuck for an idea on what to do with your mentee (young person) at your next meeting then this repository of activities is a great place to start. It covers a wide range of areas including: communication; relationship building; positive attitude and identity; culture and diversity and academic support. Thank you to the University of Auckland, the Great Potentials Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation for making this repository of activities freely available for everyone to use in their mentoring sessions.

Click on the following link to access these activities:

Tips for Mentors

Connecting with a young person in a mentoring relationship could take anything from a couple of weeks to six to nine months. Much will depend on the background and circumstances of the young person.

Effective mentors will:

  • Be consistent, dependable, and always be on time for scheduled meetings with the young person 
  • Keep the relationship alive - persevere at the beginning of the relationship 
  • Respect the young person's viewpoint and values 
  • Make decisions together with the young person 
  • Empathise, empathise, empathise! 
  • Keep the fun element at the forefront of the relationship 
  • Be prepared to be vulnerable when sharing life experiences with the young person 
  • Actively listen to everything the young person shares  
  • Keep their word 
  • Participate fully in the programm 
  • Especially in the early days meet in public, ensuring that the young person feels safe and secure at all times 
  • Always totally focus on the young person when they are together

Mentors should seek advice and support from program staff on a regular basis and should prioritise attendance at ongoing training and other activities organized by program staff.

Youth Empowerment Seminars website has many ideas and tips for creating effective mentoring relationships, as well as information on helpful resources to enhance the spirit of mentoring.

Mentoring Based on Resiliency

People often focus on the risk factors when working with students who are discouraged or from an adverse environment. In contrast, resiliency building is based on the belief that all young people have strengths and can act on them.

Mentors who adopt a "resiliency perspective" focus on nurturing and strengthening "protective factors". These are the essential elements of resiliency building, and they can mitigate negative and stressful experiences and enable young people to overcome adversity. They transcend ethnicity, cultural difference and socio-economic class and make a profound impact on the lives of young people who grow up under adverse conditions. They are about meeting the basic human needs for caring, belonging, respect and self-determination.

Source: From material in Peters & Thurlow 2002

Protective Factors that Enable Resliency

Relationships Able to form positive relationships
Service Gives self in service to others and/or a cause
Life Skills Uses skills including good decision-making, assertiveness and conflict resolution
Humour Has a good sense of humour
Perceptiveness Has insight into understanding people and situations
Independence Able to distance from unhealthy people and situations
Positive View of personal future Confident of ability to achieve goals
Flexibility Able to adjust to change and cope with situations
Love of learning Has capacity for, and connection to, learning
Self-motivation Has internal initiative and positive motivation
Competence Is "good at something"
Self-worth Has feelings of self-worth and confidence
Spirituality Has personal faith in something greater
Perserverance Keeps on despite difficulty/not giving up
Creativity Expresses through artistic endeavour

Four Stages of Mentoring

The four following stages develop during the relationship, but not always in a linear way.

Stage 1

  • Initiation
    The checking out stage, building bonds of trust and entering the young person's context through demonstrating care and respect
  • Mentor Skills
    Genuineness, listening, acknowledging, warm, open and non-controlling communication.

Stage 2

  • Cultivation
    Developing a clear and distinct role, separate from other significant adults.
  • Mentor Skills
    Assisting with critical analysis of situations.
    Consideration of options, consequences and possible solutions.
    Empathy for student experiences, but also their feelings and emotions.
    Keeping the student at the centre of decision-making and growth.

Stage 3

  • Transformation
    When the student starts taking responsibility for actions and is able to reflect with the mentor about the effectiveness of decisions.
  • Mentor Skills
    Feedback and goal-setting.
    Encouraging the self belief that motivates planning for the future

Stage 4

  • Separation
    The art of helping the student "let go" by acting independently on their learning without a sense of rejection.
  • Mentor Skills
    Making learning explicit, by noting specific progress.
    Expressing pride in what the student has achieved.

Source: Pascarelli J (1998): in Goodlad S (a) Mentoring and Tutoring, Kogan Page Ltd, London, pp 231-243

Settings for Mentoring

Most mentoring models will involve matching older volunteers with young people, the specific focus being to build a relationship of respect and trust.

  • One-to-One Mentoring One volunteer adult enters into a relationship with one young person. Mentors tend to meet with the young person for between six to eight hours a month for at least a year. 
  • Group Mentoring One volunteer adult enters into a relationship with up to four young people, meeting with them regularly for a lengthy period of time, preferably at least a year. 
  • Team Mentoring Several adults work alongside small groups of young people on a regular basis, with an adult-to-young person ratio no greater than one to four.

Youth mentoring programs aim to promote positive outcomes for their young people, though they might differ in goals, structure and emphasis.

Some aims of youth mentoring programs are to:

  • Help young people realize their potential 
  • Help young people become self-sufficient, productive citizens 
  • Improve the conflict resolution skills of young people 
  • Reduce substance abuse and other anti-social behaviours 
  • Guide young people towards more reliable attendance at school or work 
  • Improve the social and communication skills of young people: 
    • in relationships with family and whanau
    • with a focus on behaviour, attitudes, presentation
  • Enhance a sense of social responsibility in young people 
  • Encourage young people to make positive life choices 
  • Develop positive values in young people 
  • Improve the self-image of young people 
  • Expose young people to positive new experiences such as: 
    • community involvement 
    • different cultures and activities
  • Prepare a young person for the world of work

Just as each mentoring program is different, so are the locations and settings in which mentoring programs operate. The most common programs are:

Community based mentoring programs: (eg Big Buddy, YWCA Future Leaders)

  • The mentor and young person decide together when they will meet and what they will do 
  • The mentor and young person generally do not meet at the same place, but might go to the movies, the beach, visit a museum or art gallery, attend a car show, play sport together and so on. They tend to experience a variety of activities throughout the community 
  • The mentor could also take on a variety of mentoring roles: tutor academics, coach a sports skill or play games together, explore career options and so on 
  • The mentor tends to be asked to make a 12 month commitment

Site-based or School-based mentoring programs: (the majority)

  • Volunteer mentors meet their young people at the school or at the youth mentoring organisation's premises for an hour a week on average, supervised by a member of the school or program staff 
  • These meetings might take place either during school hours or immediately after school hours 
  • Mentors might assist young people with academic work, play sport or other games, work on a computer, participate in a cultural activity or simply spend the time chatting 
  • Mentors might play a significant role encouraging young people who battle with formal education 
  • Family involvement varies with programs 
  • The mentor tends to be asked to make a 12 month commitment, though only operational during the school terms

Business mentoring programs:

  • Mentors either come from one business organization or from a number of different business organizations and mentor young people within their communities 
  • Young people meet their mentors at the workplace either during or after school hours. In some programs mentors meet their young person or a group of young people at their school 
  • Mentors might assist young people through job shadowing programs, skills training, tutoring, goal getting or simply spend the time chatting 
  • Young people might have the opportunity to develop relationships with other employees, as well as the mentor (the primary relationship) 
  • The mentor tends to be asked to make a 12 month commitment, though only operational during the school terms (young people might obtain work experience during school holidays)

Choosing a Programme

The Categories of Youth Mentoring are:

BEFRIENDING - "Mutual relationships are the basis of all mentoring and this is the chief focus of programmes for younger people, which also tend to be longer in duration - especially in cases of parental absence."

CRIME PREVENTION programmes bring strong support in befriending and also for the identity development of young adolescents, to encourage connectedness with positive elements in their world. Mentoring programmes of this kind seek to avoid negative cycles in young lives.

IDENTITY AND CULTURE  - Programmes with this focus tend to be targeted at the adolescent years of non-Pakeha students, when clarity and confidence in who we are, where we belong and can aspire, are so important for making good decisions on friendships and future pathways. 

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT - These broad-spectrum programmes are structured to offer experiences and challenges that develop leadership and self-efficacy, together with individual and collaborative skills among mentees. Most programmes have an element of Personal development involved in their development. 

EDUCATION / EMPLOYMENT TRANSITION - These programmes are focused on transition times, when young people become aware of how skill sets need to be developed and matched to their goals within the education system or world of work, and where the committed input of a successful and caring adult can make a real difference.

Before deciding whether or not to participate in a mentoring program, consider exploring a number of avenues:

  • Look at the websites of at least three programs of interest to you 
  • If possible, speak to someone who has mentored a young person, preferably as part of one of the programs you are interested in 
  • Contact program staff involved in programs you are interested in and decide whether or not that program meets your needs

When considering a program to participate in, there are a number of important questions you can ask program staff:

  • How long has the program been operating? 
  • Are there any financial costs involved in becoming a mentor in this program? 
  • How are the young people selected for the program? 
  • What role do caregivers and parents play in the mentoring program? 
  • How will the family respond to me? 
  • What is the length of the mentoring partnership? 
  • How often do I have to meet with the young person? 
  • Is there training to adequately prepare me to be a mentor? 
  • How much support do I receive from program staff should I become a mentor? 
  • What are the program expectations of the mentors? 
  • How are mentors matched with the young people? 
  • What processes are followed for someone wanting to become a mentor? 
  • Where will I meet my young person and what sort of things will we do together? 
  • What happens if the match does not seem to be working?

Once you have found a program that interests you, you will be ready to follow their application process, after which you can begin the journey.

The Relationship

Effective mentoring relationships tend to follow a developmental rather than a prescriptive approach. While the mentor will drive the relationship initially, once there is a connection between the mentor and the young person, they will decide what activities they will do together, always focusing on the needs of the young person.

Sometimes the needs of the young person might be geared towards achieving specific goals. In such cases the mentor might take a greater lead, though there should be a balance involving participation in fun activities as well.

Mentors who role model effectively and walk the talk will be empowering young people to take charge of their lives and to be better able to cope with daily challenges in a positive and constructive way.

Some key characteristics of an effective mentor would include the following:

  • A dependable, consistent friend who enjoys being around young people 
  • Integrity 
  • Respect for the young person's viewpoint 
  • Looking for opportunities to have 'fun' 
  • Listening to and accepting different points of view 
  • Flexible and open 
  • Getting to know the young person's family without becoming too involved 
  • Empathizing with the young person's feelings and personal issues 
  • Seeing solutions and opportunities, as well as barriers and assisting the young person to make sense of their confusion as they grapple with adolescent issues 
  • Being reliable 
  • Stable and secure as far as their own personal life is concerned 
  • Patient and non-judgmental 
  • Having the compassion and desire to reach out to someone in need 
  • A willingness to commit to a mentoring relationship for a specific period of time

Effective mentoring relationships are likely to be built on three key qualities:

  • Mutual respect 
  • Being genuine 
  • Empathy

Key Communication Skills for Mentoring

  • Active Listening Showing involvement and understanding
  • Encouraging Through empathetic expressions and body language 
  • Observing Paying attention to unspoken messages and hints 
  • Mirroring Summarising what has been expressed in feelings and words 
  • Asking Questions For clarification and more information 
  • Decentring Seeing things from a student's pint of view 
  • Shifting Context Showing how things can be different 
  • Focus On basic principles and fundamental truths

Source: Adapted from Barnes & Stiasny (ed) 1995: Mentoring: Making It Work. Hobbs, The Printers, Hampshire, 1995.