How to Mentor a Child

When you choose to mentor a child, you accept an important role in a young person's life. A mentor is a guide, somewhere between parent and friend, who helps the child navigate uncertain terrain. Mentoring takes time, effort and energy, but you can make a profound difference. Read on to learn how to mentor a child.

Consider a formal program. You can be a great mentor without one, but a formal program can help you make the most of a mentor/mentee relationship by providing you with effective instructional tools. In addition, the program enables you to ask questions and receive guidance from more experienced mentors.

Build trust. A mentor/mentee relationship takes time to develop. Unless you choose to mentor a child you know well, your relationship is likely to take time before the two of you become close. It's important to show the child you are trustworthy. Always follow through with everything you say, including being on time for your appointments together.

Make a plan for the future. Help your protégé set attainable short, mid-range and long-term goals. Show the child how to steer his or her own life by consciously planning for the future.

Provide a strong example. The old adage 'monkey see, monkey do' has merit. You cannot teach a child to behave as a responsible citizen unless you are one. Don't try to keep illicit activity secret from your mentee; children are remarkably receptive. Always be the type of person you would be proud to have your mentee duplicate.

Help the child make responsible choices. When the child is faced with a problem, point out possible solutions and the ramifications of each choice. A good mentor teaches a mentee to appreciate a cause and effect approach to decision making.

Know when to step back. As the mentee grows, a wise mentor learns to simply guide, rather than lead the way. When you learn that your protégé is ready, hand over the reins.

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