Staying Connected – Mentoring Through Uncertainty
As human beings, we naturally crave social contact and connection with other people. Not only do our personal relationships enrich our lives, they also help sustain our sense of well-being and provide comfort and stability in times of need.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are especially aware of how mentoring relationships are uniquely defined by their capacity to provide continuity, stability and support.
“There is a lot of uncertainty right now for everyone,” says Match Support Specialist Nick Vincent. “And for Littles in particular, that can be scary.”
So, what do Bigs and Littles do when “social distancing” is necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19? How can they stay connected even when they’re apart?
“Even though you’re not meeting in-person, there is a sense of certainty you can bring to your Little and their family by expressing your desire to be present in their lives,” says Nick. “One way to take realistic steps to communicate and be a source of comfort is by having “virtual outings”.
Match Support & Customer Relations Specialist Ana Rodriguez recommends a variety of such virtual interactions, including video-calling with FaceTime, playing multi-player online games or participating in online exercise classes together.
Bigs and Littles can also each visit interactive websites like https://artsandculture.google.com, that enables visitors to “walk-through” 17 international museums, and then share their thoughts with each other, says Senior Match Support Specialist Yvette Cortez.
A current Big Sister also shared a creative example of connecting with her Match Support Specialist LaShay McNulty. She mailed her Little Sister a homemade crossword puzzle with clues and answers based on outings they’ve had as a match and provided her Little’s mom with the answers in case help was needed.
Another match kept their monthly manicure appointment in a unique way.
“They painted nails at their own homes while both listened to the new Bad Bunny album and watched his music videos,” says Nick.
And yet another match began a story writing collaboration.
“Either the Big or Little would write a few sentences and then the other person would add to it later that day,” says Nick. “They’d write for a week and then read the story together. When they have a virtual outing, they share their creative process and why they added particular words and images.”
As always, the regularity of contact between Bigs and Littles remains a priority. Predictability adds significantly to a child’s sense of security.
“Be consistent,” recommends Ana. “Communicate once a week or more if possible.”
In addition, Littles may reach out to their Bigs for more than just socializing. They may want to talk about the COVID situation specifically and how it’s affecting their life. Alternatively, Bigs may want to initiate the conversation by asking their Little how he or she is feeling and if they have any questions.
Nick also reminds Bigs and Littles that, although we’re all living with uncertainty, our current situation is temporary. It will end.
“Take it day by day,” he recommends. “Moment by moment.”
Mentoring, connecting and making a difference are vital, possible, and needed now more than ever.
Keep these general ideas in mind as you work to stay connected, help kids cope, and make sure that social distancing doesn’t lead to social isolation.
- Express that you care. Let your Little know that you are thinking about them even when you can’t be with them in person.
- Get creative. Explore virtual and remote opportunities on the internet, over the phone or through the mail.
- Listen and answer questions. Not talking about something can make kids worry more.
- Be consistent. In a time of uncertainty, show your Little that you’re not going anywhere.
Find additional suggestions about helping kids connect and cope during social distancing here:
- Apart but Together Activities https://www.bigmentoring.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-match-activities-ideas.pdf
- Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/
- Responding to Fears About Coronavirus Epidemic https://www.bigmentoring.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/si-coronavirus-tipsheet.pdf
And, if you have any questions about your match, contact your Match Support Specialist or our office. Helping people connect is what we do best!