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and I am worried that I am letting her or him down. Am I?

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Question 34

Every mentoring relationship goes through its ups and downs, and it is a rare mentor who doesn’t get discouraged at times. Sometimes a mentor has unrealistic expectations and is not seeing the changes she had hoped for, or she might worry about how slowly the relationship is progressing. A mentor may also become concerned when the mentee appears to withdraw from the relationship or engages in provocative or inappropriate behavior. It can be natural for the mentor to conclude in such circumstances that she is not being effective when in reality the mentee is just testing her mentor’s commitment.

It is also true that some mentees have more needs than others and that these needs may be beyond the scope of a mentoring relationship. It is not unusual for a mentoring program to either recruit or be faced with referrals for troubled young people with multiple life challenges. Your mentee’s life circumstances may also change significantly during the course of your relationship, placing him under more stress and challenging his coping skills.

One place to start in thinking about your capabilities with your mentee is to examine your expectations and boundaries. You may be taking on too much responsibility for your mentee’s problems. As we have observed, your role is to be a friend. And friendship itself is an important source of support for your mentee, especially if he or she has multiple needs. Your program coordinator may have ideas about strategies you can use with your mentee and can also provide additional moral support as you try them out. It might help to review the first three mentoring stages about the principles for making your relationship work.

It is possible, however, that your mentee needs professional help to cope with stressful situations. Talk to your program coordinator, who can consult with your mentee’s family and school to discuss what services might be needed.

If you are patient and persistent, you are likely to find that the situation improves. It also helps to remember that you are “planting seeds” that may not bear fruit until years later. So, it is difficult to tell right now if you are giving your mentee what she needs.

Reprinted with permission from The Mentor’s Field guide: Answers You Need to Help Kids Succeed by Gail Manza and Susan K. Patrick; Questions about the Mentoring Relationship, Question 34. Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®, Copyright © 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN; 877-240-7251, ext. 1; All rights reserved