The holiday season can be a wonderful opportunity for our BBBS mentors to connect and celebrate with their mentees, but differing beliefs, faiths and traditions can create challenges with mentoring during this unique time of year. In addition, the 2020 holiday season brings with it an entirely new set of complications due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety protocols. But we’ve got your back! Your mentees need your support more than ever, and we are here to help you navigate the holiday season. Read on for tips and strategies to help make this a magical and meaningful time for your mentees.
How to approach the Holidays with your Mentee
It’s important to take a slow approach to discussing the holidays with your mentee. For many, the holidays bring joy and excitement, but this is not true for all families. Especially this year, many families are struggling. People may be dealing with tremendous financial stress or grieving a loved one. Perhaps the adult in the household recently lost their job or had to find new living arrangements due to the pandemic. Be mindful and respectful of these experiences by letting your mentee lead your initial conversations about the holidays. Although we truly hope to be a bright spot for our mentees during this season, don’t assume that the holidays hold the same promise of magic and celebration for all families. This leads to tip #2 – Ask!
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwannza, Mawlid el-Nabi, Solstice… All these celebrations occur during November or December! Many families are celebrating one or more of these holidays, and others do not observe any. Don’t assume, don’t guess – just ASK! Ask your mentee what their plans are for this month or if they are excited for their “winter break”. Start with generic questions about the holiday season and let them lead the conversation where they want it to go. You may learn something new! Some mentees may not want to talk about the holidays at all, and that is ok too. Asking and really listening to the response should give you a good idea of the right approach to take.
Gift giving is not mandatory, the best gift you can give is your time! Focus on helping your mentee be thankful, share with them how to give back, or give them ideas for gifts they can make for a loved one. Avoid giving expensive gifts or providing experiences that may emphasize the differences between your situations. Respect your mentee’s family and recognize that not all families are able to give expensive gifts (or any gifts) or have “traditional” holiday meals or celebrations.
If you do choose to give a gift, it is advised to either select a gift under $15, make a handmade gift, or do something where you can create a gift together. Focus on continuing to build your relationship with your mentee instead of getting wrapped up in the holiday rush. At the end of the day, you’re a role model and that’s what matters to your mentee.
Have Fun and Be safe!
Supporting your mentee through the holidays may look different this year. Depending on the individual circumstances, as a mentor you may be taking your mentee to an outdoor ice skating rink or viewing Christmas lights. Some other mentees simply need you to be a caring adult who continues to “show up”, listen and help them navigate a difficult time of year. It is important that whatever activity you choose, all mentors, mentees and families agree to COVID-19 safety precautions. Avoiding crowds, opting for outdoor activities and wearing masks can all help lower risk. Some pairs may opt for virtual meetings only. Remember, whatever you choose to do – just spending time together can create new, wonderful memories that will last many years to come.
How to Celebrate the Holidays with your Mentee
Season of Giving
This is a time to teach your mentee about giving back to others and the community! Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate the value and joy of helping others while creating lasting memories together. This year, with COVID restrictions, volunteer opportunities are somewhat limited but those that remain are perhaps even more meaningful and impactful this year.
Make and donate handmade holiday cards to elderly care homes
Make treats and/or toys for an animal shelter
Make and donate blankets to homeless shelters
Organize a food, clothing or toy drive
Participate in an adopt-a-soldier project / send letters to soldiers
Help homebound, sick or elderly neighbors with yard care.
Outlet of Creativity
You can use the Holidays for an outlet of creativity. It’s the perfect time to decorate the house together or challenge each other to a gingerbread house competition. Get together to make handmade Christmas cards for friends, families and neighbors or hit the streets and “chalk your walk” with uplifting messages of holiday cheer created in sidewalk chalk! It’s a perfect time to discuss gift giving and teaching your mentee that gifts come from the heart and not just the wallet. You can even make gifts for loved ones together. Create a Holiday to-do list together or a New Year’s Resolution “bucket list” to think of new things to try in 2021 – discuss the importance of planning for the future and budgeting.
Take time with your mentee to find things you are both thankful for. Every time you hang out or talk on the phone or Zoom, take a few minutes to tell them what you are grateful for in your life and ask them to do the same. You could start a journal together to write out what you’re grateful for. You can bring this journal out every year to see what you were grateful for in prior years and keep adding to it! Another idea is to write postcards together to send to friends & family, letting them know why you are grateful for them! Showing gratitude is one of the most important things you can teach your mentee, and what better time than now to focus on this?
All the Fun Fall and Winter Activities!
If you’re running low on ideas of things you can do with your mentee this winter, check out our suggestions below!
We highly recommend following CDC guidelines for all your holiday festivities this year. This is a wonderful time of year to spend celebrating with friends and families, but the best gift you can give is to keep the safety and well-being of yourself and others as a top priority. We hope you will continue to set a good example for our mentees and do your part to protect the health of all members of our community.
Please check out the following links for further details on keep you, your mentee, and family safe during this Holiday Season:
CDC Holiday Guidelines
California updates and information
BBBS Covid Liability Waiver