Thursday, March 26, 2015

Guidelines on Gift Giving

How should I respond to my mentee's requests for gifts?
Most formal mentoring programs have specific guidelines about how to handle gifts and spending money on your mentee, so check with your coordinator first. Some programs strongly discourage or even forbid gifts. Programs that have “no gifts” policies typically put them in place to avoid offending a mentee’s family or putting mentors in situations they can’t afford. Other programs leave the decision to give or not to give entirely to the mentor’s discretion.
Some factors to help make a decision about how to respond to your mentee include your own financial situation, the type and length of the relationship, the nature and amount of the request, the boundaries you have set for the relationship, the mentee’s family’s feelings and financial situation, and the type of activities you and your mentee do together.
Deciding not to spend money on your mentee: If you decide not to buy things for your mentee, you should not feel guilty. If you wish, you can explain why but it is not necessary. A simple response (such as, “I don’t have the money for that right now”) may just end the matter. Try to avoid getting into a discussion of whether your mentee “needs” the item; it sets up and adversarial tone between you.
If you have been spending money on your mentee for activities you do together, you can say that you prefer to spend your money on activities you can do with each other rather than on things. Of course, if the requested item is related to your activities, such as a baseball mitt or a new book, you might consider talking with your mentee about how he could find the item at a cheap price.
Deciding to spend money on your mentee: Before you decide to spend money on your mentee, consider the family’s feelings. You do not want to make parents or guardians feel unable to provide for their child. If you are thinking of giving your mentee a birthday gift, for example, ask the family for advice on what your mentee may like. This will help them feel included and will give you some spending parameters.
Doing some activities with your mentee will most likely involve money, such as going to a movie or sports event or having a meal out, but be low-key about it. If you would like to work with your mentee on financial literacy, you can establish a monthly spending budget for doing things together and ask your mentee to make decisions about how you will spend it.
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 33. Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®, Copyright © 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN ; 877-240-7251, ext. 1; All rights reserved.
For more information on mentoring a child age 5-16 in Dakota County through Kids 'n Kinship, go to

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Enjoy wood-working & building things? Share what you know with Steve!

A mentor match with a birdhouse they made together
Here is one youth waiting for an adult friend to hang out with:

First Name: Steve

Age: 9

Interests: Steve likes going to parks, reading comics, biking and making things.

Personality/Characteristics: Steve is fun, energetic, nice, caring and enthusiastic! Steve’s' single parent mom is interested in a male role model or couple or family for her son. Steve says lunch and recess are his favorite subjects at school and his teacher is super nice. He is a great reader!

Goals/Dreams: Steve would love to learn more about making things with metal or building things.

Steve is waiting for a mentor through Kids 'n Kinship mentoring program in Dakota County. Currently there are 62 youth ages 5-16 living in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Farmington, Lakeville or Rosemount waiting for mentors. Volunteer mentors are individuals, couples, or family wanting to spend time with youth.  Mentors get together weekly with youth for fun and engaging everyday activities like bike riding, going to parks, having a meal together, or doing crafts or other hobbies together.  To learn more, attend our information session on March 23rd, 6-6:45 pm at the Wescott Library in Eagan.  RSVP to Rita 651-686-0990.  You can also see other profiles of waiting kids, read stories about matches and more on our website

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Like this warm weather? Spring is the perfect time to get started mentoring!

Like fishing, swimming, and spending time outdoors?  Like you, many kids can't wait to get outside!  Be a friend to a child age 5-16 and include them as you do your hobbies and sports.  

Below is one child out of the 61 who are currently waiting for mentors with Kids 'n Kinship.

First name:  Jack

Age:  9

Interests:  Jack enjoys going to parks, swimming, fishing, legos, puzzles, and playing with dogs. He also likes building things, floor hockey, basketball, and football and is a Packers fan. He would also like to go to Grandslam or to volunteer at an animal shelter with a mentor.

Personality/Characteristics:  He is smart, fun to be around, and likes to make jokes. Jack lives with his mom, younger brother, & step-dad.  His biological dad is not in his life.  He is looking for an individual mentor preferably with a dog to spend time with him.

Goals/Dreams:  Jack would like to become a police officer.

For more information on Kids 'n Kinship, go to  We have volunteer applications, child profiles, success stories, as well as date of upcoming information sessions to learn more.  The next information session will be March 23, 6-6:45 pm at the Wescott Library in Eagan.  RSVP to Rita

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Feeling discouraged by your mentee's needs?

I think my mentee needs more than I can give...and I am worried that I am letting her or him down. Am I?

teen male portrait
Question 34 from The Mentor's Field Guide
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
For more information on Kids 'n Kinship mentoring program in Dakota County, go to

Friday, February 27, 2015

Like hockey, skiing, snowboarding, & other winter sports? So does Rachel!

Consider stepping forward to be a friend to a youth today!  Below is just one youth waiting for an individual, couple or family to meet with her once a week for fun and engaging activities:

First Name: Rachel

Age:  11

Interests:  Rachel loves hockey, animals, and reading.  She also enjoys ice skating, soccer, football, playing board games or card games, coloring, and movies. She likes going to the mall, the zoo, the library, to a movie, or to a Wild hockey game.

Personality/Characteristics:  She is friendly, active, sweet, and sensitive. She lives with her mom and 4 other siblings. 

Goals/Dreams:   Rachel wants to learn how to ski and snowboard. She thinks her mentor could help her learn how to get along with her siblings better. 

For more information about mentoring through Kids 'n Kinship in Dakota County, go to

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mentor's Field Guide - Expectations

Question 19: What should my expectations be for my relationship with a mentee?
guy and boy
Like most mentors, you probably went into this out of a desire to make a difference in a young person’s life. Your desire to help is truly a gift to your mentee, but chances are that you were not exactly sure what “making a difference” looks like. You may have had very modest expectations, such as exposing your mentee to new experiences, or you may have had visions of your mentee achieving high levels of success as an adult. You also may be in a mentoring program that has explicit goals of which you are expected to focus, such as improving school performance or supporting the transition from foster care to independent living. There are many areas in which you can support your mentee.
No matter how long you have been in a mentoring relationship, it helps to step back now and then to examine your expectations: What do you want from the relationship, and what do you think your mentee wants? What exactly are you hoping to achieve? How do you or your mentee want your mentee’s life or behaviors to change because of you? How do you or your mentee define success? How does your role as a friend or “coach” call for a different approach to “helping” than that by a parent, teacher, or professional youth worker?
The more specific you can be in answering these questions, the better you can assess whether your expectations are realistic. In “It’s Not What I Expected” (2007), Boston College’s Renee Spencer demonstrates how counterproductive it can be when mentors fail to establish reasonable expectations for themselves, for their mentee, and for their relationship. But always remember, it is your mentee’s expectations that should drive the relationship, not yours.
Depending on the age of your mentee, you can also mutually set expectations for the relationship. You can ask questions such as, “What would you like to get out of our relationship?” “What kinds of things would you like to do with me?” “Is there anything in your life right now that I can help you with?” “What are your dreams?” “What are your biggest frustrations?” These discussions can set the stage for helping you focus your expectations and helping your mentee think about how to benefit from the relationship with you. These questions can be explored even if the mentoring program already has specific goals like the ones mentioned earlier.
It is particularly important to focus your expectations on developing feelings of trust and closeness in the early stages of your relationship. Building the relationship is the most important work you will do as a mentor and the most successful relationships are those in which mentors take their lead from their mentees.
While it is natural to have goals for the child you want to help, trying to push your mentee to achieve your goals will not only make you seem more like a teacher or parent than a friend, it may also impede the development of the very type of relationship that can be most helpful. There is a further risk, too. Mentors who go into mentoring with an agenda to “change” the mentee run the risk of feeling frustrated, disappointed, and rejected if the hoped-for changes do not materialize. These feelings, in turn, can lead the mentor to conclude that she is being ineffective or that the relationship is not working. Such feelings may be unintentionally conveyed to the mentee, or worse, may lead the mentor to give up on the relationship, thus inadvertently hurting rather than helping the mentee.
One mentor referred to expectations as the Achilles’ heel of mentoring. What he meant was that your expectations and the reality of mentoring may not be in sync after you are in an actual relationship. This discrepancy can lead to feelings of inadequacy on your part and to feelings of frustration or defensiveness in your mentee. And it makes it easy to forget that it is the relationship that is the trans-formative element in your mentee’s life, not actions you take to improve your mentee’s life. Further, it is possible you will never know about the real changes that have taken place unless you happen to see your mentee many years later, and he or she thanks you.
You will be most successful when you keep your goals “on the back burner” so that you can focus on helping your mentee establish his own goals and then provide support and guidance needed to achieve them. This is a fine balancing act, since you may see possibilities for your mentee that he would not see. If you do want to help your mentee raise his aspirations, you can do this most effectively if you “guide” rather that push. It is also very important to remember that mentoring cannot take the place of professional treatment that a troubled person may need.
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 19. Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®, Copyright © 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis , MN ; 877-240-7251, ext. 1; All rights reserved.
For more information on getting started mentoring in Dakota County, go to or attend an information session Thursday February 19th, 6:00-6:45 pm at Wescott Library in Eagan (1340 Wescott Rd).  Please RSVP to Ingrid Henry 952-891-3885 or 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Like playing in the snow? Be a friend to Zach!

Could this be you enjoying the fresh snow with a kid?

First name:  Zach   

Age:  12

Interests:  Zach likes playing in the snow, basketball and fishing. He is very focused on his studies at school.  He loves animals. When asked why he wanted a mentor Zach said "to get out of the house and do more stuff and meet cool people." 

Personality/Characteristics:  Zach is a remarkable young man - a great communicator, intelligent, athletic and energetic and very very nice. He lives with his single parent mom and his little sister. He needs a positive male role model or couple or family.   

Goals/Dreams:  "To build things, not just with Legos."

Zach is waiting for a mentor through Kids 'n Kinship youth mentoring program in Dakota County.  Mentors are individuals, couples, or families who volunteer to spend time each week with a youth age 5-16 for fun and enriching everyday activities.  To learn more, go to