Letter from the Mentor Coordinator
Welcome to the April issue of Calendar+, a monthly newsletter with upcoming events, tools, tips, and more for The Jewish Board’s Big Brother/Big Sister program. It includes a – you guessed it – calendar plus other tools and information. This month’s feature, Teen Talk: Bigs Adjusting to Littles has ideas for how you can stay connected to your Little as they move through adolescence. Please refer to our archive to read our past issue for more ideas and resources.
March was a busy month for the Big Brother Big Sister Program. We had our first events of the year, including a meet-and-greet Happy Hour. We will be hosting more in the future.
April was jam-packed with events ranging from free improv/narrative storytelling classes online, including a virtual paint night, birding in Central Park, and an online supermoon show.
Each issue of Calendar+ will include Conversation Starters. Consider these as gentle reminders to ask questions that allow you to build trust with and grow closer to your Little.
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you travel to? When do you think you’ll be able to go?
- Who is your best friend? How did you meet? How do you help them know how much you love them?
- What would your perfect day consist of?
- What is your favorite memory of us?
This month’s Calendar+ Feature: Teen Talk – Bigs Adjusting to Littles
During my initial interviews with Bigs, one great commonality was the challenge of mentoring teenagers. They push, they pull. They want freedom, yet they still need guidance and comfort from adults. This is confusing for mentors. Here are some of the common things I heard from devoted Bigs and some ideas for what to do.
“My Little won’t text me back and I get worried.”
It is unnerving to keep texting without receiving a response. Is your Little even alive? These feelings are normal. Believe it or not, your weekly text check-ins are extremely important. Texting a meme or a brief, “Hi, how are you? I was just thinking about you,” is a way to keep the lines of communication open.
Just because they don’t reach back to you, doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you or value their relationship with you. They are distracted with new people and new environments, while managing greater levels of responsibility at home and school. They need to know that you are there for them when they need you. Consistent weekly communication, and acceptance of periods of silence, will make it easier for them to reach out when they need you. You can also let them know how their silence makes you feel. That you get worried. You feel cast aside, etc. Having a heart-to-heart can be a way to clarify what your Little needs as well as to express your feelings.
Change your style of communication: Texting is pretty boring when communication has become so interactive and visual. Kids these days use memes, GIFs, videos, and social media apps to communicate. Instead of typing up a text, think about sending a video of you talking. Learn how to use apps like Tik Tok, Instagram, and Snapchat. See this reference guide for virtual communication for more information and ideas.
In summary, when your Little doesn’t text you back, try these things:
- Communicate consistently on a weekly basis.
- Have a heart-to-heart.
- Learn which apps your Little uses to communicate with and learn to use them.
- If you’re really worried, reach out to their guardian to make sure that they are okay.
“I feel like my Little and I have grown apart; they don’t want to hang out with me anymore”
Don’t take teenage distance personally. Try to remember what it was like for you at their age. You finally get a little bit of freedom. You use it to spend time with new friends doing new things, going to new places. It doesn’t mean that your Little doesn’t need your continued friendship and guidance. It means that they are now inundated by so many competing interests and need you to make adjustments to accommodate their typical teenage growth. Here are some concrete ideas to implement:
- Teens thrive with responsibility and trust. Empower them to plan outings and pay for the activity of their choosing. All of the activities in our calendar and in the various shared docs (linked to above in the calendar section) have activities geared toward adolescents. Also, kids need to eat. Consider heading to brunch or dinner. Try new cuisines.
- Shorten the length of time of your meetings.
- Schedule it. For example, see them on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month at noon at the place of their choosing for a 1-hour brunch. Let them know that you’ll block out the full 3-4 hours just in case they have more time and would like to do something after brunch. No pressure.
- If your Little seems stressed out, consider setting up a time to just sit together and not say a word, perhaps at the beach in Coney Island. Or play basketball and grunt. Watch a TV show together. You can be their break from thinking about all of the things that weigh on them.
- For a Little who seems to think that their Big is part of their little-kid past, consider making outings future-focused. Ask, “What do you think you might want to for a vocation?” and use that as a springboard to explore the field.
- Treat them with an adult-like respect and honor their wishes to the extent you can.
More Resources for Bigs mentoring teenagers
- Listen to this 3-minute podcast about the top 10 requests from a teenage mentee.
- Read 10 Tips to Mentor Youth Like a Superstar.
Memes for Your Mentee
Send these memes to your mentee as visual conversation starters, or just to let them know that you are thinking of them!