Often, there are myths about becoming a Big which can keep individuals from volunteering. The staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Ohio would like to dispel these myths and encourage those interested to inquire and see how they can help children in the community reach their full potential.
Myth: I don’t have any experience working with children. I’m unqualified to be a Big.
Reality: You don’t need experience with children to be a successful Big. Impactful Bigs are individuals who are consistent, reliable, understanding, patient, and fun! Littles need positive role models who are willing to show up and be there for them as they navigate life. Even those individuals who do not have mentoring experience can provide support and encouragement to children to help them realize their full potential. Many volunteers who apply have little to no experience, and this is why the Big Brothers Big Sisters staff is there to provide training, information, and guidance.
Myth: Mentoring a child is too much of a time commitment.
Reality: Four hours per month – this is the time commitment that the agency asks from their Bigs. Some matches meet for four hours on a weekend. Other matches prefer to meet one hour per week. Scheduling is flexible, and the Big, Little, and Little’s family members can communicate to decide what works best for the match.
Myth: I won’t have the training or support I may need in my mentoring relationship.
Reality: Each Big goes through a training process before being matched with a Little. This training includes information about mentor expectations, child safety and youth protection, guidelines and policies, working with Big Brothers Big Sisters staff, forming a partnership with a parent, and many other topics which will assist a Big in becoming prepared for mentoring. When a Big is matched with a Little, the match is assigned a mentoring specialist. This mentoring specialist will continue to provide feedback throughout the match relationship, and the mentor will have access to all necessary resources, training, and information.
Myth: Mentoring a child is expensive.
Reality: At Big Brothers Big Sisters, they encourage little to no cost activities. They feel that match activities should be about building a relationship, not spending money. At the beginning of your match, you will be provided with a packet full of activities all within a 3-county radius. The Big Brothers Big Sisters’ agency holds free match events throughout the year and also partners with community organizations who offer opportunities for match outings, such as tickets to sporting events and theatre shows. Throughout your match, your mentoring specialist will provide you with ideas that are specific to you and your Little’s interests.
Myth: If I commit to mentoring a child, I will not have time for my own family.
Reality: Big Brothers Big Sisters does encourage mentors to spend one-on-one time with their mentees, but they also advocate for Bigs to include Littles in their family activities. This way, Bigs can spend time with their mentees by inviting them to join in activities already being done with family members. Many Littles enjoy getting to know a Big’s spouse, children, and extended family. Actually, spending time with these individuals can provide Littles with opportunities for positive social interactions and social skill development, so this is a great solution for Bigs who are looking to balance mentoring and family time.
Myth: I won’t know what to do or talk about with my Little when we’re together.
Reality: Before Bigs and Littles meet one-on-one, a match meeting is held with the mentoring specialist, the Big, the Little, and the parent. This ensures all parties have the opportunity to meet before match outings begin. Once the match begins meeting, the mentoring specialist will follow-up to ensure everyone feels comfortable. The match specialist will also provide relationship building suggestions and activities that include the interests and hobbies of both Big and Little. If there are any issues regarding communication or bonding, the mentoring specialist is there to provide support and solutions.
Myth: All Littles on the waiting list are in circumstances that I am uncomfortable with.
Reality: Each Little comes into the program for a different reason. Some children need assistance with academics. Other children have experienced trauma or are dealing with a mental health diagnosis. And, there are children who need a positive role model, so they can be encouraged to make healthy choices. Often, parents refer their children to the program. Children are also referred through school staff, counseling agencies, juvenile court, and other relatives. The staff reaches out to involve children through various youth organizations and community partners. At the time of your interview, staff will ask what your specific preferences are regarding the child and family you’d like to work with. They want you and your Little to feel comfortable in the match relationship, so this information from your interview is used to make the most successful match.
Myth: Due to the current social climate, it is not a good time to become a mentor.
Reality: Because of the global pandemic, mentoring is now more important than ever! Many children are finding themselves in isolation because of the virus, and they can greatly benefit from having a positive individual to spend time and interact with. Safety is a top priority at Big Brothers Big Sisters; therefore, many safety guidelines and policies have been put into place for matches. Bigs have the option of participating in a virtual match if they aren’t currently comfortable meeting in-person. Big Brothers Big Sisters utilize virtual platforms where matches can meet, and your mentoring specialist has virtual activities to offer you and your Little.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Big, you can call (330)339-69116 or visit www.bigs4kids.com.