The question we should all be asking as mentors is, how do we build these kind of qualities into our students? This week, we’ll continue to answer that question by taking a closer look at the third quality-“connection.”

This month, we introduced five key character qualities that we can look to build into our students in 2020. These qualities are known as “The Five C’s of Youth Development,” and include: competence, confidence, connection, character, and compassion.

Remember, connection means “having positive bonds with people and institutions (including peers, family, school, and community) that provide a sense of membership, safety, and belonging.” Students who grow in connection also tend to grow in self-confidence and community-involvement, and have more opportunities to build support systems around them.

As a junior, Brandon didn’t have much contact with his dad, had experienced some personal health issues, and felt somewhat lonely at school: this prompted him to ask for one of those “Be the One People.” Brandon loves all kinds of music and has a quirky sense of humor—just like his mentor, Dennis. They spent a lot of time discussing music and playing Foosball together. The more casual and light-hearted friendship developed into something much deeper in his senior year as he learned to trust his mentor and began to share more openly. “He’s a good friend,” Brandon says. “I wish I would have started this earlier.”BTO Coorindator

As mentors, we can build connection into our students in a couple of ways:

We can develop a positive relationship with our students where we are both contributing and growing together. In all mentoring relationships, the quality of the relationship is what matters most. We should be developing the kind of relationship with our students that includes qualities such as: mutual trust, respect for each other’s interests and values, and the ability to share thoughts and feelings with each other. Students with this kind of relationship with a mentor are more likely going to be open to their guidance and will value their opinions, advice, praise, and support. Here are a few suggestions of how you can develop a positive relationship with your student:

Involve your student in the process of deciding how you spend time together.
Share likes and dislikes with each other and take turns pursuing each other’s interests.

Show your appreciation for your student’s skills, abilities, and qualities.

We can help our students feel more connected to their school and our communities. Students who feel a sense of belonging (“connectedness”) at school often see the impact in other areas, like: higher attendance, reduced negative behaviors, and improved academic performance. These students are able to develop the kind of positive relationships with peers and adults that will help them in life beyond high school. Here are a few ways you can help your student feel more connected to their school and your community:

Participate in a school activity or volunteer service opportunity together.
Help your student connect with teachers or counselors about school-related issues.
Praise your student’s accomplishments and abilities to family members and teachers.

However you end up helping your student build connection, make sure that your relationship is a two-way street where both of you are contributing to the friendship. This will only help your student grow in their ability to build positive relationships with others now and in the future.

Check back next month as we continue to take a closer look at the rest of “The Five C’s of Youth Development” and how we can help build these qualities into the students we mentor.