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On the Topic of Self-Disclosure

Mentors, like therapists and teachers, may sometimes find themselves in a situation where a child asks for personal information or where sharing personal information seems right. This is perfectly normal. However, mentors may benefit from a little forethought to prepare for this moment.

What Is Okay to Share

Some Grand Area Mentoring volunteers have told their mentees stories about their family, childhood, and education. Such disclosures about personal background may help your mentee feel close to you and feel more comfortable sharing her feelings, especially when connecting to you over a similar story. To a child, self-disclosure may make a mentor seem warmer. Offering examples of how you overcame hurdles or solved a problem can also be an educational tool in your quiver of mentoring strategies.

What To Think About Before Disclosing

First, be responsible and consider that whatever you share may be passed on. Keep intimate information to yourself. Not all students exhibit the same level of discretion. Remember, this is not a peer friendship. This is a mentor-mentee interaction where the adult provides guidance and a positive example.

Second, think about what you might disclose. As mentioned above, recounting your strategy for dealing with difficult issues might provide your mentee with tips for addressing her problems, and it may help her feel less alone. For example, a mentor might talk about how getting along with a sibling was hard at some points but a specific strategy helped smooth things out. You might want to touch on how you and your mentee are similar, which can foster bonding. You might talk about how you enjoyed similar sports or interests when young (and still do!)

Third, consider your motive. Don’t just share for any old reason. Disclose for specific purposes such as: fostering mentoring closeness, normalizing your mentee’s emotions, helping your mentee identify her difficult feelings, building mentee self-esteem, offering helpful strategies, and having fun or a laugh (via a dramatic or humorous personal story).

If you’d like to explore, vet, or role-play a self-disclosure scenario that might help your mentee with a particular issue or build your relationship, feel free to talk with Dan (260-9646) or Megan (260-9645).

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