I recently read an article about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in the Boston area. A graduate student in sociology did a study on the end of mentor match relationships. The results were pretty typical with no surprises and was easily comparable to Bridges Kinship Mentoring programs. Some matches ended with a final meeting and saying goodbye, some with options of keeping in contact, some "it's been great" goodbyes. However, some matches ended and nobody really knew what hit them. The possibilities are endless, but a few of the common reasons were that the young person no longer wanted to meet or communication stopped and everyone was left in the dark about why this match didn't succeed.
These results fit nicely into the studies out of the University of Mass-Boston: Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring that stated...if a young person knows when the end of a match is going to occur, the likelihood of having positive outcomes is greater. If a match ends with no final "goodbye", if it just dwindles, or someone leaves suddenly, the affect on the young person could actually be more detrimental than not having a mentor at all.
On a much smaller scale, I think about when I go on vacation and my mentee doesn't know that I am going to be gone for a week. (We see each other in passing at least 3 times a week and get together about every 10 days.) Does she think that I have dropped her like a bad habit? I know it's oversensitive and I'm thinking too much about the end results, but there's an uncertainty-a gap- if I do not communicate my temporary absence. This leads to instability in trust that we have developed in our relationship that comes with time.
I think the same can be said when mentees are dropped off at the end of a wonderful mentoring time together and the door shuts. Was there an opportunity to say goodbye until next time?
So it comes down to intentions and communications. When we do not pay attention to endings we can contribute to negative experiences with mentors, youth and families. Then we miss important opportunities for learning in relationships. When we do not pay attention to the signs of early endings, disconnects or anxiousness, we are doing more harm than good.
So...whether you are ending your match with a young person, going away for a bit, or dropping the kid off until next week, goodbyes are important.