questionswho volunteers? need some advice


We filled our pockets with doggy treats, but we volunteered at the Humane Society :)


I've never worked with BBBS, but I have substituted in an in-school mentoring program with elementary school kids. The bummer about being a sub is that almost every time is a "first time" meeting with a student.

I always introduce myself and speak directly to the student. If the student has a name I'm not familiar with, I make sure I know how to correctly pronounce it. I also sometimes ask the student what they like to be called. If the student appears nervous and I'm also nervous I acknowledge that, saying something like "I'm a little nervous to meet you. Are you nervous too?". I find that can really help to break the ice.

Do you have specific goals/things you need to get done during the meeting time? If you do, you might want to go over those briefly with the student and then ask what they want to do first. Maybe you can play a quick game to start with - something like you each get to ask 3 question to the other person. These can be things like "what's your favorite food?".


"Or what type of music do you like to listen to?". Try to avoid yes/no questions.

If you're able, try to do something physical together for a few minutes. Playing at a playground, tossing a ball or frisbee or even just going for a walk around the block can help, as some people are more comfortable talking while they're also doing something else. If you can't get outside, a simple card game (Uno is great) or a craft (duct tape wallets are my go-to craft) can provide you something to do together and also a chance to talk but without that being the main focus.

Ask lots of questions of the student but don't forget to listen. And then give them an opportunity to ask questions and get to know you as well.

And don't forget to have fun.


It's great what you are doing linuxtrance, good luck!


Treat the kid like an adult (even if he isn't) and it'll be easier. Don't over explain everything, let them ask questions, and absolutely show an interest. Make it about them, but don't be doting or pandering... That isn't what they need right now.


@gt0163c: Thanks so much for that! That's really helpful. I think I just need to be calm about it, also it helps knowing they'll be a little nervous too, lol.


I will acknowledge it is hard to be conversational with someone who is out of your age group. The best thing to do is think of yourself at the exact age and remember every weird feeling you had they are also having.

In addition to the helpful advice that has been posted already, try to let your kid dictate what happens: be reactive when your kid wants to take the lead and take the lead when your kid doesn't.

Don't be overbearing with questions.
Sometimes when kids have a rough day they don't want to talk but rather find some activity to take their mind away from their situation. Something as simple as a trip to the arcade or a game of HORSE can accomplish this.

Be forthright. Kids have an already fully-developed radar to tell whether someone is being honest or not (aka BS-ometer).
Be on-time every time, even if the kid is not.
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new if the kid shows an interest in it. This learning experience works both ways :)

Good luck.


Treat the kid like you would a brother/sister. I volunteered with BBBS when my daughter was young. It was a lot of fun, and gave my daughter a "sister" to play with. Do age appropriate things, but don't be afraid to ask what they want to do as well. Also, don't be afraid to tell them no, but explain why you are saying no.

As an ice breaker, tell them why you wanted to be a part of BBBS. Ask them why they like it. Go over expectations on both sides. Nobody wants to be disappointed, but likewise, sometimes the expectations are too high on side or the other.

Be Yourself! And allow them to be who they are. The girl I was lucky enough to be a big sister to was wonderful, but we came from different backgrounds. This was one of the things I most enjoyed. Her way of thinking actually has help me as an adult. She graduated 2 years ago and is in college now, but we still talk often, and she and my daughter still claim each other as sisters.

Have fun and enjoy this child. They are precious.


@pyxientx: "Treat the kid like you would a brother/sister."

Heh, I'd say treat them better than that. ;) But honestly I think this is a great thing you're doing and while I have no advice that is awesome as the stuff above I hope it is a good experience for you both.


Be on time. Be there the whole time. And BE there when you're there. Always remember: this isn't about you. This is about someone who needs you.

And thank you. Thank you for trying to make a difference and for being a positive influence in society.


@inkycatz: True. My brother and I were kinda rough with each other. But, we lived through it.


@linuxtrance: You are awesome for doing this! I love volunteering in different ways because it's a wonderful feeling to know that you've helped something or someone. The suggestions above are great since I would be just as nervous as you because I'm rarely around kids and feel awkward interacting with them.


Don't worry about making an impact, think about it as building a long-term relationship. You are nervous, and so is the child. That is normal.
Try not to dominate the interaction and ask a few open ended questions. The key is to listen.
So simply asking the child what they would like a Big Brother to be like will give you a wealth of information.
Also do not lie, pretend, be phony, kids can spot it a mile away and you will never build trust.


Thanks everyone for all the advice, I think I've been overthinking it too much, and wanted to swoop in and be like, "Hey! I'm Mr. Awesome, now everyone love me". A more down to earth approach will work better I think, and the advice you guys have given will really help! Thanks all :)


@linuxtrance: You will do great. Good luck and thank you for doing a wonderful thing.


@linuxtrance: Just remember Superman wears a cape and is a fictitious comic book character. Real HEROS look like you.

Ain't it great to be helping someone else?


Congratulations and thanks for being a volunteer. In keeping with the be there advice, I just wanted to say, if you are a cell phone person, turn the thing off. I have several friends who honestly do not realize how rude they are with the way they are constantly diverting their attention to their phone. It really isn't a life support device, it does have an off button. I also wanted to second the "treat them like adults" suggestion. I get along very well with kids even though I don;t have any because I treat them like adults while watching out for them like kids. If you are going to be taking your new sibling on adventures, take them to try new things. Teach them to eat with chopsticks, take them to a play, to a vintage clothing store, to an outdoor arts festival. Give them a chance to see parts of the world they might not otherwise see.


I just did the meeting (Last night) and it went fantastic. The BBBS representative set the tone and kind of led us through it, so it was easier on both of us. The kid was really excited which was really sweet to see, and when asked when he wanted to go on his first outing he said "Can we do tomorrow?!".

Haha, I had to work today, but we are going to go out on Saturday and go roller skating, which I'm sure will lead to a broken arm on my part, I'm a clutz.