Learning from mentor’s experiences

Recently, one of our mentors who has been with us for 16 years, decided it was an appropriate moment to stand down, at least temporarily, and take a well-deserved break. This provided an opportunity for me to visit her and her partner, also a former mentor, to say thank you and to learn from her experiences. After all, we are all built to learn throughout our lives.

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Before joining PROMISE, Lorna was based in the education sector specialising in teaching and supporting children at risk of going into care. During this time she made a number of referrals to PROMISE, many of which were not successful simply because of a lack of mentors. 

And so, on retiring, Lorna addressed this by becoming a mentor herself. 

Her initial reaction to this new role was one of appreciating the freedom this offered her to work without a formula. A relief from previous expectations. This, Lorna believes, gives a mentor the opportunity to understand and interpret a child’s needs through the process of creating a relationship based on friendship rather than through pre-determined procedures.   

Lorna thinks “it can take a couple of months to work out whether the relationship will gel.”  

We can all remember the adults who were important to us during our youth. Anyone who approved of us and gave us their time, helped us to believe in ourselves and in who we are.  

Lorna’s thoughts on this are very much in-line with research by Professor Rudi Dallos which concluded that amongst the many benefits of the PROMISE approach, “internal change” or how young people view themselves is a key outcome. (The research paper is discussed in a previous blog). 

Lorna emphasised that it is the relationship that matters in helping every child to feel they are valued, that they matter. 

A further insight from Lorna is that so often, their misdeeds are often made into dramas. She feels mentors listen but do not engage in this process. The effect is to “normalise” the experience and thereby lower the emotional content of the experience by introducing a sense of calm. Again, this reflects research which found the introduction of calmness and emotional intelligence into the lives of young people to be one of the major benefits of the Promise model.  

Lorna also mentions that mentors should not always expect appreciation from young people stating that the experiences of many children mean they don’t know how to express gratitude. 

Potential mentors should know themselves well prior to becoming mentors. “Being a Mentor is not a process for getting to know yourself.” 

Finally, Lorna emphasised that mentoring is not counselling. It is about relationship, “trust, trust, trust” and recognising and accepting that “kids don’t have to be what’s expected of them.” 

All of us at PROMISEworks would like to say a very sincere thank you to Lorna for her thoughts, and for providing such a long term commitment to the charity and for helping the children she has mentored and supported move forward far more positively to achieve “a life that works.” 

“Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult”

A few hours each week listening, coaching, caring, encouraging and supporting can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

Rod Salter

Published: 18th Sep 2020

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