Mentor Corner: Continuity across the miles

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 10.26.12 PMEditors Note: In this column Gail Manza and Susan Patrick draw from their new book Mentor’s Field Guide, which is framed as a series of 67 answers to the most common questions that arise in youth mentoring. 

Question 35. Because of a geographical move, my mentee and I will not be able to get together. Is there a way we can continue our relationship in some form?

If you are the one who is moving, it is essential to discuss the transition with your program coordinator as soon as possible so that you have enough time to plan for how to end the relationship—at least in its present form. If you are mentoring informally, have this discussion directly with your mentee and his family. Express your wish to stay in touch with your mentee, and talk about how that might happen. (The ideas in this section also are applicable to summer vacation periods in school-based mentoring programs that allow continued contact.)

There are various options for continuing the relationship, depending on the policies of your mentoring program, your mentee’s age, the distance of the move, and access you and your mentee have to computers or affordable phone use. Be sure that you are able to honor any commitment to stay in touch before you make it. Some options to consider include the following:

• Regular phone calls: You can have regular phone calls either using a dial-up phone or using a computer with Skype. Skype is a video calling service that is free when it is installed on your and your mentee’s computers. Mentors like Skype because the phone call is more personal when you can see each other, and it also allows you to do things like read together.

• A reduced but regular meeting schedule: If you or your mentee are moving within a reasonable distance, it might be feasible to continue seeing each other on a less frequent schedule. For example, instead of seeing each other for an hour a week you might see each other once a month for several hours.

• An e-mentoring experience: Depending on your mentee’s age and computer access, you also can have an e-mentoring relationship. For more information on e-mentoring, see Question 30 and chapter 8 on resources. In addition to communicating by e-mail, you can communicate through social media such as Facebook if your mentee is willing to “friend” you. Facebook and similar programs are a great way of staying in touch with what is going on in your mentee’s life on a daily basis.

If continuing the relationship is just not feasible, work with your program coordinator and your mentee’s family to end the relationship in a way that makes it clear you are doing so; also be clear that you have appreciated the chance to get to know your mentee. For more on this point, see the next question.