Establishing clear expectations around reconnection with your mentee after a break is essential to nurturing your mentoring match. Whether you and your mentee have been matched for a few months or several years, there are steps you can take as a mentor to make sure that the two of you continue to strengthen your relationship upon reconnecting.
First, make sure to check the school calendar and communicate with the School Contact, your mentee, and your Mentor Director about when your first visit after the break will be. Usually, the first week back is chaotic, so schools might ask you to wait until the second week of classes. Either way, getting started as soon as possible after classes reconvene is key. Confirm your return date and, when possible, communicate this to your mentee so they know when to expect you. You may ask your School Contact or Mentor Director to help you get the message to your mentee.
Rituals can be great tools for bonding. Many mentoring matches begin their visits by sharing any events that have happened since their last visit, and end visits by asking about any upcoming plans or events. Remember, this doesn’t have to be anything big. It can be checking in on how your mentee did on a project, or how a family visit went, or even how they liked a movie. If this type of check-in doesn’t feel right for your match, that’s ok. You can develop rituals that better fit your match, even asking your mentee for any ideas they may have or choosing together from Seedling’s activities page. The important thing is to establish consistent rituals, since we know how much kids can benefit from routine and structure.
One easy and fun way to reconnect after a prolonged visit is to each draw your favorite highlight from your time apart over the break. No art degree is necessary, just bring some colored pencils/crayons/markers and paper and spend 5 minutes drawing together. Then take turns showing each other your drawings and telling the story behind it. Shared activities like these are engaging and simple ways to build strong bonds, and research tells us that taking part in shared, fun activities focusing on relationship building is one of the best ways to ensure a successful mentoring experience for mentor and mentee.
Whatever ways you and your mentee choose to engage when reconnecting, remember that in the role of mentor you are there to be a supportive, empathetic friend. Research shows that the strongest and most beneficial matches to youth are those where common interests and authenticity are at the forefront of the relationship. Be yourself, be a friend, and have fun together. When you follow those steps, reconnecting after a break comes naturally like catching up with an old (or young!) friend.