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

Family & Parental / Guardian Involvement

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:

  • Are there safety barriers that need to be addressed?
  • Are there cultural components that may be conflicting?
  • Are their opportunities to strengthen the girls’ relationships with parents/guardians?

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:  

  • Parents/Guardians request it
  • Barriers could present if parents/guardians don’t understand the program
  • There are safety issues within the community
  • Parents/guardians are engaged and interested in learning more
  • Girls indicate they would value and appreciate this

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:

  • Invite parents to come to an information session
  • Send out a regular newsletter by email that showcases photos, highlights from the program and quotes from the girls. The girls can take an active role in producing the newsletter.
  • Provide parents with regular schedules of activities
  • Hold a special event for parents/mothers and their daughters
  • Invite parents to volunteer to speak at a meeting
  • Provide regular emails/telephone calls for updates (which can be particularly helpful to accommodate schedules)

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:

  • Family events: North York Community House hosts regular potluck meals, which provide an opportunity for parents to make a contribution, transcend language barriers and celebrate different cultures. The girls in the program also hosted an International Women’s Day Celebration that gathered women from the community and provided an empowering forum for girls to showcase their learning from the program.
  • Holiday celebrations: Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association has participated with kickoff events and holiday parties at various Calgary Housing Company locations, plus other community engagement events with the girls and their families.
  • Email updates & introductions: The Boys & Girls Club of Hamilton uses email correspondence with parents to facilitate ongoing communication in a way that is accessible and sustainable. The process involves a preliminary introduction of the staff person, and eventually the mentor, as well as ongoing telephone conversations and email updates. When they match the girls with mentors, they send parents and guardians a biography of the mentor as well as a photo so they feel connected to this new influence in their daughters’ life.

Parental and Guardian Barriers & Resistance

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:

  1. Collaborator: Takes an active role engaging at the start of the mentoring relationship, working together with the mentor to helpfully facilitate the development and promote the efficacy of the relationship.
  2. Coach: Coaching to ensure a productive mentoring relationship. Often this occurs when the mentor is considerably younger than the parent.
  3. Mediator: Feel they need to take action to protect their child’s best interests by trying to either preserve the mentoring relationship or end it when it becomes unstable.”

- 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.

Contact: mentoringgirls(at)