Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit

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.

Program and Meetings

Planning for Relationship Closure

“Raising the issue of closure at the beginning introduces endings as a normal phase in the mentoring process and lays the groundwork for participants to know what to expect and to prepare for this phase – whether it occurs sooner or later. It also offers the opportunity for agencies to inform all participants about the expectations regarding closure and the importance of planning and preparing for ending and saying goodbye.”

- Spencer & Basualdo-Delmonico (2014)

Planning for the closure of a group and the termination of relationships is an important piece of program preparation. Relationship closure implies the healthy and planned ending of a mentoring relationship. This takes place when a program communicates a clear end date from the outset and when this plan is followed through.

When developing your program, specific policies and processes should be outlined for managing positive relationship endings, whether planned or unplanned. Information on managing unplanned relationship termination can be found here in the Managing the Group Dynamic section

Some suggestions for managing the positive closure of mentoring relationships include:

  • Frame closure as a “graduation” from the program.
  • Celebrate the time you’ve had together and all that you’ve achieved.
  • Acknowledge that the program is ending and validate the feelings of participants.
  • Count down until the end of the program.
  • Include family or community champions where appropriate.
  • Thank one another for the time, friendship and energy invested in the group.
  • Develop a way to close each meeting. This will allow for some closure should a participant not return to the group prior to the official end.

Closure Activities can be a fun and engaging way to give participants the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye. Below are examples of possible closure activities:

  • Create ‘Warm Fuzzies’—each member gets a card with their name on it, which are passed around for everyone to write a compliment or goodbye message.
  • Take a picture of the group and decorate a picture frame as a memento.
  • Make friendship bracelets for each other.
  • Plan a celebration party with music and treats.
  • Collectively evaluate what the program has accomplished and the outcomes that were achieved.

Tips from the field for preventing early relationship termination:

Create a system for ongoing support:

Creating structured and unstructured program components that encourage ongoing dialogue and support are one of the best ways to support mentors to feel comfortable and confident in their role. Meeting debriefs, separate mentor meetings and regular check-ins are all critical pieces for preventing unforeseen early termination. The Ongoing Mentor Supervision & Support section provides further instruction on this program component.

Have a backup mentor as part of your program:

Many programs have found it useful to have a backup mentor take part in the program from the beginning as a ‘floating’ volunteer. They undergo the same screening and training process as the other mentors and are involved in the large group activities on a regular basis. This allows for a familiar face to step in and take over a group of girls if a mentor terminates their program involvement early. Be mindful that it is important to make that ‘floating’ mentor feel valued and to find meaningful roles for them if they are not always needed within the matched groups. This will encourage their ongoing commitment to the program.

Consider incorporating a co-mentoring or tri-mentoring element:

By having co-mentors assigned to each small group of girls, there is a buffer if one mentor falls ill, cannot attend or withdraws from the program. They can lean on one another for support and actively share the role of mentoring the girls. Similarly, by having a tri-mentoring component, there will always be an extra mentor who can step into the role and cover a matched group if needed. This type of mentoring occurs when a mentor in one relationship becomes a mentee in another relationship. The tri-mentors are typically older than the main group of mentors or bring with them an elevated level of leadership to help guide the mentors.

Consider a buddy-system between mentoring groups:

You may want to pair off each of the small mentoring groups (matches of one mentor and several girls) into a buddy-system. While the girls and mentors will meet separately and forge their own bond and connection within their small, matched group, they might occasionally or monthly join their buddy group for an activity. This allows the girls to become familiar with another mentor in the event that their assigned mentor has to withdraw from the program.

Have each mentor write a letter as part of the early training process:

You may wish to have each mentor write a letter to the girls in their group as part of their early training process. This letter can frame their excitement for the program and their enjoyment getting to know each of the girls. It can also thank the girls for all that they share with the mentor. In the event that the mentor can no longer participate, and is unavailable for a formal goodbye, the letter can be shared with the girls to offer them validation, appreciation and closure. An added benefit is that through this activity, the mentor will be reminded of the importance of their commitment and the impact of their unplanned exit from the program.

Key Take-Aways

Taking the time to plan the logistics of your program will alleviate many bumps and questions that will arise later on. Be sure to keep in mind the following strategies:

  • Familiarize yourself with the different types of mentors and mentoring models
  • Explore the extent and manner in which staff can be involved in programming
  • Consider various ways to establish a safe and nurturing space for girls
  • Recognize the importance of parental/guardian involvement to mentoring programs and explore ways to involve them more

Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org