Not all young people are talkative by nature; others can take a long time before they feel comfortable enough to talk to an adult they have recently met. Stop and think about it for a moment: how comfortable would you have been at your mentee’s age talking to an adult you barely knew?

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Don’t push.

Meanwhile, avoid pushing your mentee to talk, and try to avoid filling the silence yourself. If you can learn to be comfortable with silence, you are giving your mentee the space he needs to think on his own. Keep the focus on having fun together rather than talking.

Provide reassurance.

Sometimes mentees don’t talk much because they have things going on in their lives that they are embarrassed about, and they may believe adults would think less of them if they were aware of them. You can frequently mention to your mentee that you are there for him if anything is ever bothering him, and remind him again that you will not share what he tells you with other people unless you feel that he is in danger. Express how much you care about her, and explain that it is up to her whether he talks to you.

Ask open-ended questions about what you are doing together.

Michael Karcher has compiled some valuable tools for solving the “I dunno, what do you want to do?” problem.

Engage in activities.

Focus more on activities you both enjoy doing rather than on talking for the sake of talking. It can be helpful to do activities that don’t rely on talking but might be conducive to conversation afterward, such as seeing a movie or sports event together, reading a book together, or playing a board or computer game.