Some mentoring relationships—like all relationships of all sorts—take longer to get established.

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Talk to your mentoring coordinator.

If, in spite of such efforts, this feeling of not connecting doesn’t improve, inform your program coordinator sooner rather than later. The support he or she provides may help you get through this rough period. If you and the program coordinator jointly determine that the relationship does not have a viable chance of working, you can collaborate to manage the relationship termination in a way that will minimize such harm.

Change the relationship.

Here are some straightforward things you can do to establish a stronger connection with your mentee:

  1. Have fun together. Ask your mentee to make a list with you of 10 things she would like to do when you get together. For your suggestions, focus on fun things the mentee might not otherwise be able to do—going to a sports event or museum, for example.
  2. Let your mentee make the final decision on what you will do together.
  3. Ask open-ended questions about your mentee’s interests, and incorporate these interests into your activities.
  4. Listen more than you talk.
  5. Be patient and persistent in the face of setbacks.
  6. Keep telling your mentee how much you care about her.
  7. Affirm your mentee’s good qualities and strengths.
  8. Take a look (or a second look) at resources that can help fine-tune your communications skills (such as visiting Mentoring Central).

Understand the reasons.

Here are some possibilities:

  1. Shyness: Some young people are just shy or are not used to interacting with adults outside their family or school.
  2. Distrust: Young people who come from circumstances in which they felt let down by the adults in their lives may take extra time to decide to trust another one.
  3. Age: It can be especially challenging to connect with teenagers, at least in part because developmentally they are more oriented toward their peers than to the adults in their lives.
  4. Differences: Cultural, racial and ethnic, or gender differences can slow down the connection simply because it may take more time and effort to find common interests on which a relationship can be built.
  5. Circumstances: Family circumstances may also make it more difficult to establish a regular schedule for getting together.
  6. Unrealistic expectations: It is possible, too, that your expectations are out of sync with the reality of mentoring a young person. You may be looking for results in the first stage of your relationship that do not typically occur until later in the relationship.