Adapting our mentoring support

YAT volunteer mentor, Jo, tells us what it’s like now mentoring sessions have moved into the virtual world

Mentoring, like many things in life at the moment, has moved online.

This is a shift in approach for everyone as we juggle new technologies to enable us to remain in contact through a time which is challenging for us all.

We have moved to being in contact more often, catching up on a video call once a week for an hour, rather than the fortnightly 2-hour face-to face sessions we began with.  The young people still have the responsibility of showing up at the agreed time and hopefully with the technology sorted – as do mentors!

Nathan, the young person I mentor, has with his usual enthusiastic approach to mentoring sessions taken all this in his stride. He has been brilliant at coping with the new format and shown remarkable acceptance and patience with the new way of doing things and with my technological challenges!

It has been great to be able to keep in touch online; to continue to have a chance to chat about life in general, with its new routines and rhythms, and to provide a safe space to discuss some of the challenges this new way of being is presenting. It has definitely reignited our creativity as we try some activities we may not have tried had we still been meeting face to face.

We have a fantastic resource bank of ideas and activities compiled and updated by YAT and the volunteers. Nathan and I have tried out a couple of games at the start of our sessions to get the conversation flowing; “Would you rather” has proved a hit…”Would you rather only be able to skip or always have to walk backwards?! Have a small rain cloud follow you everywhere or be permanently sweating?! Have glue for saliva or vinegar for tears?!”; it certainly warms up the chat!

Whilst Nathan has expressed some sadness at not being able to meet in person, and of having to halt the archery course he’d started doing after planning and support to get it underway in our face to face mentoring sessions, he has also said he’s enjoying the online sessions and has shown incredible adaptability in shifting his focus to activities we can do on a video chat.

Being a huge Harry Potter fan, Nathan enjoyed a session where I asked him Harry Potter Trivial Pursuits questions (he got a whopping 58/61 correct!). He was then really proactive about ensuring I was included, and at our next session had a Harry Potter quiz ready so we could both ask questions!

We have plenty of ideas in the pipeline and plan to venture into audiobook territory next, where we’ll both listen to the same book and compare notes, starting with a discussion of Chapter 1 of The Maze Runner.

Whilst the sessions are planned to be fun and engaging, they are also a time for dedicated adult attention, which is often missing from the lives of young people at YAT. Nathan knows he can talk to me about any worries of concerns he has, whether it’s the pressure of being stuck inside, worries about things going on at home, concerns about his school work, fears about the pandemic or life after lockdown. It is great to be part of providing a small piece of continuity for Nathan through our chats and trying out new activities together, giving us the chance to work on developing the resilience needed to meet the challenges lying ahead.

Nathan said:

 I like everything about having a mentor, it’s all brilliant. Jo is kind, funny and smart and puts up with me and keeps me on track. I think she’s made me more confident and happier. I’m happy the sessions are going to continue even though I’d prefer them to be face to face. I enjoy the sessions and I think they help me a lot. They calm me down and help me to be less stressed.

Nathan’s mum said:

I’m really happy Nathan has a mentor. It’s teaching him independence, communicating with someone else and I like that because he’s 15 and he’s getting to that point where he needs to start being independent by himself, it is a good way of learning. He is buzzing after each session. Just to be able to talk to somebody outside of the household now is important, because all he’s doing is seeing people within these four walls at the moment which is quite stressful. Having someone else to talk to is nice for him. I think it’s quite important for him.