Being a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is a challenging call. You will come head on with the challenges of being a mentor at one time or another. Indeed, the first step of volunteering to be a mentor is already a huge challenge to some. Because Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring is targeted children from disadvantaged homes, the organization makes selection of candidates a careful process. The organization’s priority is child safety. Hence any aspiring mentor undergoes stringent scrutiny to ensure a positive and safe relationship with the child.
Once accepted, it may take the mentor a few weeks before he is matched with any little brother or sister. Accurate matching ensures a happy and impactful relationship because it is a quality relationship that will help the little brother or sister grow socially or emotionally. Herein lies the first challenge as a mentor: keeping your own life in order. You cannot be an exemplary mentor if your own life is in shambles. A mentor needs to be in complete control of his life affairs even in uncontrollable states of affairs.
Your little brother or sister, often referred to as a Little, may be a pain. Because of the family conditions he is subject to, he is likely to be a painful experience or a completely silent one that is as hard as a block of ice to crack. Bear in mind that you Little has gone through much that a normal child or youth will usually not be exposed to, and it is for the negative impact of those experiences on their lives that these Littles have been accepted into the mentoring program.
Your Little’s parents can pose a threat or a leech. Some may take the mentoring relationship to milk compassion from you. Refer these interferences to Big Brothers Big Sisters staff. For such reasons, the mentoring programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters are highly structured, and anything that is out of step by the mentor or the Little and his family will be seriously dealt with.
Your patience will be stretched especially during the initial sessions when your Little is sizing you up. If your Little is a little firebug, be prepared to feel the sting and smile through. A quality relationship is often the result of the mentor’s patient endurance of all the irksome behaviours his Little can exhibit. It will put you in a great position to find out as much as you can the various ways your temper may be tampered with, and prepare yourself mentally to respond in a manner to bring about positive change in your Little.
You will need lots of honest reflection of your own motives for standing by your Little, as well as how you have done after each session. Remember that the star in the relationship is not you, as a mentor, but your Little A positive change in your Little’s life is what you strive towards, and in the process, your own life will be molded.
Your expectations of your Little is at best zero. Having zero expectation does not mean not trying your best to effect a change. Instead it means that you must be prepared that no matter how much you put into the program, you may see no change at all, and despite not having any little sign of positive response, you willingly press on to the next session, and the next, until you see something happen.
Be prepared to be on an emotional yo-yo if you are not mentally prepared. Because your Little has gone through a lot, do not be surprised at trying moments and unexpected downturns in the relationship. Triggers abound in your Little’s life that will often bring out the worst in him, and that is something you must be prepared to deal with and to be there for him.
Do not feel guilty that you are the trigger. It could be as subtle as a word spoken by you that has a twisted meaning for your Little. You do not intend something but because of the intricate past your Little has, the response is not what you would expect. You need to be strong, and know how to recover yourself. Only then will you be strong enough to be there for your Little.
Despite all the challenges you will face as a mentor, have faith that you have made it through the layers of selection processes, and have been seen as someone who will brave the storm as a solid rock no matter what happens. Take one step at a time. Speak often to the more senior mentors and staff. Just as your Little will take every session as a stepping stone to the next, so will you, to survive whatever experience you may have with your Little.
Enjoy every moment with your Little, and you will learn to deal with the challenges as you would a little ailment. You will survive the challenges, and you will have learnt to take charge of your own life as well as make an impact on your Little to take charge of his own life.