Saturday, June 21, 2014

Healthy Conversations

Although the resources below are about healthy lifestyles and mentoring, the "SMART RESPONSES" excerpts are applicable for many mentoring conversations. The age of the mentee is irrelevant.

Mentors, prepare and keep SMART RESPONSES handy. 

A SMART RESPONSE does the following:

• Avoids blaming or judging the mentee.

• Avoids harsh overreaction or “scare tactics.”

• Maintains appropriate boundaries (the mentor is not a parent, physician, therapist or peer).

• Invites the mentee to share his/her perspective on the issue.

• Opens discussion of options and choices.

• Encourages a problem-solving alliance between mentor and mentee.

• Offers information and only if wanted.


• That sounds like a tough situation.

• I’m sorry you were in a tough situation like that.

• I’m here to listen if you want to talk about that.

• I’m glad you trusted me enough to tell me.

• It must be hard for you when other kids do that.

• Have you told your parent (caregiver) about that?

• How would you feel about telling your parent (caregiver) about that?

• Is there anyone you want me to talk to about this?

• [If appropriate] I feel like I should tell the program coordinator about this, just so he/she knows the challenge you’re facing. Is that OK with you?


• How do you feel about that?

• What did you think when _______ said that?

• Now you’re faced with some choices.

• Would you like to hear my advice about that?

• Is there anyone besides me you’d like to talk to about this?

• Is there anyone you want me to talk to about this?

• That’s a situation that I’m also facing right now [or that I have faced].

   Would you like to hear about my situation?

• That was a situation I also faced when I was your age. Can I tell you about what I did?

• What have you learned about ___the topic___?

• Would you like to hear what I’ve learned about ____the topic___?

• Should we talk about this again sometime?

You can encourage your mentee to cope in healthy ways by

- Pinpointing the source of stress;

- Setting realistic goals and using time management skills;

- Taking care of physical health;

- Practicing physical relaxation techniques;

- Keeping a journal to express emotions;

- Identifying healthy ways of releasing frustrations;

- Using positive self-talk to remind him/herself about what’s going well in life;

- Learning how to get along with others better;

- Using humor; and

- Treating mistakes as learning experiences.

As a mentor, you are a friend and guide.

Be honest with your mentee.

Respect your mentee’s culture and family values and practices.

Build on your mentee’s interests.

Get help if you have any concerns or questions.

Reinforce any positive changes or choices your mentee makes and avoid
criticizing poor choices.

Practice and reinforce tolerance and kindness.

Don’t ask the mentee if he/she ____(s), e.g., drinks, is sexually active, overeats, etc.

Don’t assume that you have no influence over your mentee’s decision's.

Don’t assume your mentee knows about the dangers of _______.

Don’t make something a “forbidden fruit.”

Don’t be judgmental if the mentee mentions his/her ______. 

Don’t ask about the mentee’s family members, even if you know they ______.

Don’t urge the mentee to “lecture” or try to change the minds of peers or family
members who have __________ behavior.

For more information specifically about mentoring youths on health, see these excellent guides.

A Mentor’s Guide to Encouraging Healthy, Active Lifestyles Among Youth
A Mentor's Guide to Preventing Youth Tobacco Use
A Parent's Guide To Preventing Underage Drinking 
from The Governor's Prevention Partnership (Connecticut)

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