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How a mentor can overcome the silent treatment

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Challenging days can be part of mentoring

Mentoring can be so rewarding, but it also has challenging days. Perhaps you have experienced this with the young adult you are mentoring.

Are they not opening up as easily as you hoped?

Have you noticed a change in the way they talked to you from the last visit you had?

Maybe they seem distant or distracted.

As a mentor, you may feel a bit lost when this happens. It can occur on your first visit as well as your 20th. We all have days where talking just doesn’t feel good. You have to be patient and understand that the child you are mentoring may be processing something that happened to them. So what do you do?

Here are a few ways you can help when your mentee isn’t talking:

Good Days-Bad Days

We all have them. Keep in mind that school isn’t the easiest place. Perhaps your teen had a disagreement with a friend or a teacher. Maybe they didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  We all have days where we are tired and grumpy and simply do not feel like being bothered. Just because your mentee isn’t being very talkative doesn’t mean they don’t want to be with you. It means they need some quiet time; perhaps just some “me time” to process life and what all is going on. On these days you take the lead. Hold the conversation and show them you are there. Keep the conversation light and breezy. Don’t make them dig deep for answers. Don’t take it personally if your teen isn’t interested in talking much; we all have our days.

Feeling Backwards

Some people are very shy. It may take some teens a very long time to come around because they suffer from shyness. It can be hard to meet new people and then be expected to hold a conversation when you are used to being alone. Be empathetic and understand that not all mentored children are going to be outgoing and ready to open up to you. Keep the vibe positive and let them know you’re interested in them. Ask about goals or hobbies. Little by little you will see them come around.

Be aware

You may feel discouraged if your young adult is unwilling to talk. However, they are listening. Always remember… Even if your teen doesn’t feel like talking they will hear what you have to say. When they are ready to contribute they will engage in the conversation.

Getting Past the Wall

Do you feel like you have hit a brick wall with your mentee? A relationship takes time. You have to keep in mind that some of these children have very little positive experiences with adults. Allow them the time they need to warm up to you. They are taking everything in and processing it. They want to see if you are truly committed to being with them. Show your teen that you are genuine and you are there for them. Even when you feel like you making very little progress with your mentee, you may be surprised.

Use What You Know

Training should have been provided for you before you started mentoring. Recall what you learned during your training. If you are having a hard time you can always consult the program director to see if they have any suggestions for you. Do not be afraid to ask for help, as other mentors have experienced the silent treatment too. There are tons of resources online that can help you overcome hurdles when mentoring, and your program coordinator should also be able to lead you in the right direction.


Games are a great way to get a child involved without having to necessarily directly talk to you about their life. Let them pick a game and see how it goes. Choosing the game will make them feel a bit more in control of the situation they are in. Plus, the game serves as a reason to have interaction with you. There are loads of games available online and your programs should have several available to you as well. This is a great way to break the ice with a silent mentee.

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