Speaking to your Mentee’s Age or Developmental Stage
September 28, 2021

Now that our mentees are attending school in person, kids of all ages need help making sense of what happened and how to transition “back to school and back to life.”  Mentors can help their mentees adjust to expectations and understand their feelings by listening, practicing compassion, and keeping in mind what developmental stage their mentee is in.

Early and Late Elementary Age

This age group is in the important psychosocial stage of developing competency: the sense that they are capable of carrying out tasks in school and at home.  Like all students, our elementary age mentees are learning how to be a student in person again, with all the behavioral expectations that come with being in a classroom: following directions, observing quiet time, controlling impulses.  The transition to coming back to school in person can be difficult for some of our mentees.  As mentors, we can give them space to talk about how they are experiencing these expectations so that we can validate and/or help them problem solve, if needed, by asking questions like:

  • How do you spend your time at recess?
  • Where do you and your classmates go when you need quiet time?
  • Who do you eat lunch with in the cafeteria?
  • How are you getting along with your classmates?

Middle School Age

This is an exciting yet awkward time in life.  A key focus during this age is identity development, who they are and who they want to become.  After a year of learning from home, our mentees can seem unpredictable as they find their friend groups, apathetic as they explore what they are passionate about, or disappointed finding their friends have changed.   Middle school aged students begin defining themselves by whom they spend time with, what activities they enjoy and branching out from their families.  This age group is starting to have deep conversations with their peers that aid in this identity development.  They also are likely to begin using some form of social media, and have access to content that can be both enriching and harmful.  This age group needs help with emotional regulation and putting language to feelings.  Mentors can help by talking with their mentees about:

  • The news they are seeing on social media.
  • What their friends are talking about, and what topics interest them.  
  • Asking them, “how do you feel about it” and then really listening.

High School Age

This age group is about finding independence!   After a year of being at home off and on, our high school aged mentees are ready to get out there…. but are they?  While the thought of going back to school in person seems exhilarating, for some it can create intense anxiety.  Peer acceptance and social status are the most important things in a teen’s life.  They are wired for social connection.  For much of the past year and a half, this has existed almost entirely online.  In-person socializing takes different skills and requires different coping strategies.  How can we as mentors help students deal with the fears and uncertainty the pandemic has caused, as well as what teens normally face at this stage; fear of judgement, fitting in, and getting ready for what is next.  Mentors can help by:

  • Acknowledging what was missed over the last year and a half and help your mentee focus on what is still ahead. 
  • Reassure them that it is not too late to join the club they are interested in, make good grades, find after-school employment and be ready for post-graduation.  You can support your mentee by helping them set realistic goals.  Ask them, “What are you dreaming about?  How can we break your dream into smaller action steps?”
  • Find out what news they are paying attention to and ask them how they feel about it.

Questions or concerns?  Please contact your Mentor Director.  No matter the stage your mentee is growing through, Seedling is here to support  you.

Excerpted from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_help_your_student_face_another_pandemic_school_year

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