This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by the Davidson Institute. It provides tips for parents on finding a mentor for their gifted child, including things to keep in mind when your child is seeking a mentorship and six steps to establishing an effective mentorship.
Does your child show a spark of interest and motivation in a particular area? Does she/he find aspects of school unsatisfying? Is there an insatiable curiosity that you’re not sure how to address? If these questions describe your child, he/she may benefit from a mentorship. A mentorship pairs a student with a professional in the student’s field of interest. The opportunity to pursue interests outside of the classroom can produce remarkable results for young people, both academically and personally.
Things to keep in mind when your gifted child is seeking a mentorship:
- Successful mentorships are goal-driven
A mentorship will be most beneficial and most productive if it is focused on a project. This gives the relationship direction and a tangible goal to work toward.
- Each party has a specific role
Parents: Your role as a parent is to supervise you child’s interaction with his/her mentor and to provide support as needed.
Mentor: The role of the mentor is to provide direction and advice on completing the project.
The Gifted Child:
- establish the relationship (with your assistance).
- make a conscious effort to learn as much as possible.
- have a plan for the mentorship and how to complete the project.
- meet the deadlines for the project.
- ask questions and propose solutions.
Six steps to establish an effective mentorship
1. Assist your child in determining his or her readiness
A successful mentorship requires dedication and commitment. If your son or daughter is unwilling to put forth the effort to find and establish contact with a mentor, a mentorship may not meet your child’s needs at this time.
Before pursuing a mentorship, it’s important to have a family meeting to discuss commitment levels. Setting guidelines in relation to time and money up front will alleviate disappointment later. Establishing how many hours per week your child has to devote to a mentoring experience is also critical. We recommend coming up with a plan for handling stress and conflicting responsibilities before they arise.
Be aware of your responsibilities to the child’s mentor. For example, make sure your child is available at the designated meeting time, and check in periodically to ensure your child is fulfilling his/her responsibilities.
Prior to beginning a mentorship, you should determine your guidelines and expectations for the relationship including what type of mentorship (one-on-one or telementoring) would be best for your child, and when, where, and how often meetings will take place, etc.
2. Determine in what area your son or daughter would like to pursue a mentorship
Help your child explore what her/his interests are and what she/he hopes to accomplish through a mentorship. Perhaps completing an online career or interest survey would be helpful in narrowing down his/her interests.
3. Assist your child in researching potential mentors
An effective mentor should share your child’s interests. Professional and religious organizations, universities, and community groups are all good sources for potential mentors. Contacts you have may also be helpful. Even if your friends, acquaintances or professional contacts are not the right fit, they may have suggestions for you. There are several organizations that facilitate the mentoring process by helping students find appropriate mentors.
If you cannot find a local mentor, you may want to consider a distance mentoring experience. See Mentored Pathways
4. Let your child make the contacts
You can support your child in researching and locating potential mentors, proofreading initial contact letters/emails to the potential mentor, or other efforts of that nature; however, it is still his/her responsibility to take the leading role in forming the relationship. Encourage your child to keep a log of all contacts made and any actions associated with them. This will help clarify communications along the way and minimize misunderstandings in the process. Your child’s commitment at this stage will reflect her/his interest in the whole process.
5. Participate in the interview process
Once your child has found a potential mentor, arrange a face-to-face or telephone interview. Allow your child to take the lead in the meeting, but be prepared to ask questions about supervision, safety, intellectual property rights, ect.
If the interview does not go well, it is likely your son or daughter will be disappointed. Help him/her to understand that it may not be easy to find a good match and encourage her/him to keep trying.
6. Follow your child’s lead
If the interview goes well, help your child develop a plan for the mentorship. Remind him/her to be an active participant to gain the most from the experience. Keep in mind, even though this is your child’s endeavor, the mentorship is still going to require your supervision.