In this post I share 10 practical considerations about how to find a mentor for your child. And I tell the story of how I found mentors for my twice-exceptional son and gifted daughter.
Why find a mentor?
Making friends is difficult when you experience the world differently from almost everyone you meet. That’s my experience as an adult, so imagine how much difficult it is for children to find kindred spirits!
And if a child can only socialise for short periods at a time because he’s still learning to manage intense overexcitabilities, then the job of finding friends becomes positively Sisyphean.
The no.1 predictor of lifelong creativity
Leading creativity psychologist E Paul Torrance found that the number one predictor of lifelong creativity and personal fulfilment is the extent to which children fall in love with a future vision of themselves.
But when a child is constantly being told he’s too much (talkative, sensitive, fidgety – whatever) and can’t even connect with his peers, how can we expect him relate to successful adults who appear (to him) to handle life effortlessly, let alone imagine himself as one?
Mentors can bridge the gap
We can help our kids bridge that gap – to begin to see themselves as the happy and successful adults we want them to become – by connecting them with relatable adults who remember being just like them.
Adults who once faced the same challenges our children face now. People who can share with our kids what they learned on their journey to overcome those challenges and leverage their strengths.
Mentors, to act as role models – beacons of hope, even – for our children.
How to find a mentor for your child
Finding a mentor may seem like a tall order, but once you start looking you might surprise yourself with your resourcefulness and who you notice crossing your path.
How we found a mentor for my 2e son
My introverted 11-year-old son has intense OEs. Like many kids with sensory issues, he endures haircuts with a tense grimace punctuated by shrieks of pain as the comb brushes too hard over his scalp or a speck of hair torturously prickles his neck.
Fortunately when my son was just three-years-old we found a hairdresser who not only snipped as quickly and carefully as she could, but who reassured me that her son (14 years older than mine) had been exactly the same when he was younger.
Throughout our many salon meetings over the last eight years I’ve enjoyed hearing how our friend’s son has, to his mother’s amazement and delight, matured into an intelligent and charming young man. Elliott gained a first class psychology degree, has a long-term girlfriend, and is now running a coaching company teaching kids how to use their emotional intelligence to become happy, successful adults.
Even though he’s busy growing his business, Elliott was eager to meet my son and engage him in fun activities through which they can get to know one another.
Elliott doesn’t flinch when my son throws his racket across the tennis court when he misses a point, and he has infinitely more patience than me when it comes to Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon.
Although they’ve only met a few times, I know Elliott is there when my son needs an understanding friend. And because he has eavesdropped on the many conversations I’ve had with Elliott’s mum over the years, my son truly believes that Elliott once faced very similar challenges to those he now struggles with, and that he overcame them to become the happy, successful adult he is today.
How we found my daughter’s mentor
My extroverted 12-year-old also has OEs, but she doesn’t struggle with regulating her emotions to the same degree my son does. My daughter’s biggest challenge is finding other people with whom she can share her intense passions, like her love of linguistics.
As with my son, my daughter’s mentor is the (adult) child of a family friend, a lady who runs book groups for homeschooled kids. When we first met, Kate remarked that Cordie reminded her of her eldest daughter who was home-educated until she was 16 and who now studies languages at Cambridge.
Around the time Jasper began working with his mentor, it occurred to me that Cordie might benefit from a similar relationship with Kate’s daughter, M. M works hard to pay her way as a student and she had to travel a distance to meet us, so I offered to compensate her for her time.
On their first mentoring meeting I left the girls chatting away in a coffee shop. When I returned an hour later, my daughter was beaming and eager to share all she’d talked about with her older friend.
As a bonus, M followed up with a lovely email to me in which she listed all the resources she’d recommended to my daughter. M is back at university now, but I know that the girls will meet again and I’m sure that M will be an inspiration and role-model for my daughter as she forges her own path into adulthood.
Mentoring – 10 Practical considerations
How to find a mentor
1. What is your child’s biggest challenge? Look for a mentor who has overcome similar obstacles.
2. Who do you know? Even if you’re an introvert like me, you probably have a wider network than you realise. Ask trusted friends if they can think of anyone who fits your wish list.
Before the first mentoring meeting
3. Prepare your child. Even if they already know the person, explain why you think the mentoring relationship will be useful. Be willing to let the person go if the chemistry doesn’t work. No matter how perfect the relationship looks on paper, if your child doesn’t trust him, mentoring can’t happen.
“Mentor: a trusted counsellor or guide.”
4. Prepare the mentor. Explain what you hope your child will gain from the relationship. Help establish rapport by sharing a little about what your child enjoys doing and what he’s interested in.
5. Clarify any payment or bartering arrangements. I’m upfront with my kids this. Just as we pay for them to be taught piano and guitar by more experienced musicians, there’s no shame in showing that we value the time and experience of the young people who’ve kindly agreed to act as their mentors.
The first meeting
5. Where will the first mentoring meeting happen? Ideally find somewhere your child and her mentor can talk without being overheard or interrupted. If your child energetic, do they need access to outdoor space? My son and his mentor chatted for ages on our trampoline!
6. Do you need any supplies? Would your child like to play a game or do a craft with her mentor as they chat? Would snacks help?
After the meeting
7. Discuss the meeting with your child and his mentor, separately. If appropriate, ask the mentor to jot down for you any resources she thinks might benefit your child.
8. Respect the mentoring relationship. Don’t require your child to tell you more than he’s comfortable sharing about the meeting, and don’t ask the mentor to undermine your child’s confidences. Even if you’re paying, the success of the relationship depends on mutual trust between your child and his mentor.
9. If the first meeting goes well, either set a date for another meeting or agree to stay in touch and meet again in a few months.
10. Last but definitely not least, appreciate yourself for being a great parent to your sensitive and intense child. Even if your first attempt at finding a mentor didn’t work out, you’re doing your best – and that’s good enough. 🙂
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Does your child have a mentor?
How did you find him or her?
How do they add value to your child’s life?
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Are you navigating the highs and lows of raising sensitive and intense children? I’d love you to hear from you in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page. And don’t forget to leave your email address in the box at the top or bottom of this page to receive my regular posts direct to your inbox.
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This post is part of a Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop. Click for more inspiring articles about gifted children and the role of mentors.