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9 principles for supporting challenging pairs

Here are nine things to keep in mind when considering how to support a challenging pair. 

Deciding on the best course of action for a struggling pair or deciding whether or not a pair should be unmatched is ultimately a judgment call. However, there are a handful of basic guidelines you should abide by when making this decision. 

1. Unmatching should be your last resort.

Unmatching can be extremely disruptive and can hold particular weight if the mentee has had a lot of disappointing relationships with adults already. You should never keep a mentee matched to a harmful mentor. However, if the mentor and mentee are simply experiencing conflict, you should do everything in your power to coach them back to a healthy place.

2. Put the mentee first.

When considering interventions and/or rematching, take the time to consider what would be best for the mentee above what might be best for the program or the mentor.

3. Know the mentor’s limits.

Sometimes mentors want to be unmatched because they feel powerless or frustrated, which can be a coaching opportunity for the Program Coordinator. However, if the mentor has been patient and consistent for months and the mentee continuously doesn’t show up for events or sessions, you need to consider how much longer the mentor can wait without feeling frustrated with the program. It would be a shame to lose a great mentor forever when there are plenty of young people who could use such a dedicated mentor.

4. Adapt the intervention to the developmental/social/emotional needs of the mentee.

Consider what the child’s needs are developmentally. Is this mentee emotionally mature? Does this mentee have positive relationships with adults? Peers? His family?

5. Adapt intervention to appeal to mentor’s motivation.

Understanding how each mentor is motivated to serve as a mentor is a crucial part of match supervision. If you understand how a mentor is motivated you can frame your conversations around intervention in a way that the mentor can best understand and invest in. For example, if a mentor became involved in the program because they wished they had someone to help them navigate being the first kid in the family to go to college, you should frame your intervention around the idea that the mentor can be effective in helping the mentee prepare for this if they just follow through on the intervention plan.

6. Conflict is a blessing in disguise.

It is through dealing with conflict directly that young people learn how to communicate, trust others, and have healthy lasting relationships. Encourage working through problems and misunderstandings.

7. Don’t make assumptions about what the mentor and/or mentee wants.

Mentors and mentees won’t always tell you exactly how they feel about sustaining their match. Feelings of guilt, disappointment and low confidence may keep them from being upfront with you. You need to ask them directly about whether they want to sustain the match and why or why not. You might be surprised by what you find out.

8. Consider where the match is during the match’s life cycle.

Each match has its own cycle and it helps to create an intervention within this context. For example, if a match is new, it’s not uncommon for the mentee to be resistant.

9. Consider where the match is during the school cycle.

Consider what time of year it is and how that may help or hinder the effectiveness of the intervention.

Have another tip or suggestion? Leave it in the comments below.