This Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit provides the tools, resources and support to create, implement, deliver and evaluate a quality group mentoring program for girls, ages 9-13, in your community. The Toolkit is intended to be used in a range of communities, and can be adapted to the unique values, needs, strengths and challenges that each community encompasses.
Research in mentoring relationships has demonstrated that mentoring relationships are stronger when parents are supportive and appropriately involved. According to the AED Centre for Gender Equity (2009), “It is very important that parents and guardians understand the important role that mentoring will play in the lives of girls. If parents and guardians are supportive, they will encourage their daughters to attend the meetings. They will ask the girls to talk about what they learned in the mentoring sessions so that the whole family can learn from the mentee.”
“Rather than filling some void in the child’s life with regard to positive adult role models, these parents hoped a mentor could expand their child’s horizons, offering a range of positive experiences that would enhance their child’s well-being and expand his or her sense of self and future possibilities.”
– Spencer, Basualdo-Delmonico & Lewis (2010)
Gauging how much a program should involve the parents and guardians can be difficult. It is important to remember that ‘involvement’ doesn’t mean ‘participation’ in the program. Their involvement can mean parents and guardians understanding the program, knowing what the girls are doing in program, knowing how to communicate with the staff and/or mentors and supporting their daughter in the program. The community context will guide you to better understand this, as parental and guardian involvement may look different in each community. It is also often helpful to consult with other local programs. In determining this, we suggest asking the following questions:
It is also important to gauge from girls how much they want parents or guardians to be involved. The 9−13 age range is a sensitive time and the program itself is supposed to be a safe space for girls. Gaining their feedback on this component—while empowering them with decision-making in this process—will help for more positive outcomes.
You may wish to consider increasing the involvement of family, guardians and parents when:
It is also a good idea to consult with parents and guardians to gauge their expectations and hopes for the program. Sometimes you won’t have control over this piece since you cannot manage the dynamics at home or the availability of family members to participate. Offering multiple mediums of communication can be helpful to address the varied schedules and availability of parents and guardians. You want to be mindful not to create a situation where some girls feel left out if their guardians are unable to attend in-person meetings or sessions if that is the only method of contact offered. Programs in Canadian Women’s Foundation's Girls’ Fund made the following suggestions for improving parental involvement:
Some programs have engaged parents and guardians to help in specific volunteer roles, such as helping prepare snacks, coordinate program supplies (e.g. organizing craft materials) or providing extra supervision on field trips. Parents, guardians and other family members can also be invited to attend celebrations as special guests, or to be spectators at special events (e.g. a talent show).
Perhaps try out one of these suggestions from the field:
While many measures can be taken to encourage and support positive parental/guardian involvement, sometimes barriers or resistance can exist beyond what a program can address. While parental/guardian involvement presents many opportunities and is a best practice, it is not a make-or-break component that should limit a girls’ participation. When involvement cannot be achieved, programs should strive to keep open lines of communication and continue to offer various methods of engagement if and when the opportunity presents itself.
“Where relevant to the mentoring design or the needs of a specific child, parents may have greater involvement (e.g. accommodating activities for the needs of a child with a disability.) Parents may play three kinds of roles in mentoring relationships:
- Spencer, Basualdo-Delmonico & Lewis (2010)
It can be difficult to find an approach to parental/guardian engagement that meets the needs of every single girl in your program. When creating space within program activities or events for parents/guardians, you may wish to broaden the invitation to any woman that is important or special to the girl. That way, girls will be more likely to find someone they can bring, such as an aunt, teacher or babysitter. Programs must be mindful to not exclude girls when their parent or guardian cannot attend by matching them with a staff person or volunteer and by having a conversation prior to the family/guardian event.
There is a final important consideration when planning the role of parents and guardians in your program. Within the matched mentoring groups, girls may disclose barriers, issues or a crisis that should be shared with their guardian and that requires attention and/or intervention. This can be a difficult and complex issue to navigate and your organization should have guidelines on disclosure that clearly indicate when parents/guardians should be involved and how this should be facilitated. This responsibility should rest on the organization and should not place any accountability or onus on the mentor.