empty banner

BUILDING RAPPORT  |  CREATING A COMMUNICATION PLAN MAINTAINING A COMMUNICATION PLAN |  SETTING LIMITS  |  PLANNING OUTINGS  |  SIBLING MATCHES  |  DEVELOPING A COST PLAN  SECRETS

Building Rapport

Allowing time and establishing a routine for communication for guardian’s and Bigs is a key aspect for successful friendships. To help build comfort around reaching out, we recommend:

  • Utilizing pick up and drop off for Bigs and guardians to check in
  • Follow up phone call and/or texts after an outing is a good alternative
  • Bigs can consider sending text updates during outings or sharing an outing picture with their Little’s guardian.
  • Creating a group text thread between Guardian, Big, and Little is also helpful for ensuring Guardians are kept in the loop.
  • For site-based matches, connecting with teachers/school-site contacts helps to ensure clear and open communication.
  • Guardians reaching out between outings with quick updates about their child (did they make a new friend at school? Did they accomplish something their Big would be excited about? Bigs love these informal updates!).  Bigs can also proactively reach out on off outing weeks to check get updates/check on their Little.

If you’re finding it difficult to establish these moments of getting to know your Big/guardian, speak with your Match Support Coordinator for more insights and ideas.

Creating a Communication Plan

Setting clear and realistic expectations around scheduling and ongoing communication is key to a successful match.  We recommend:

  • Scheduling the next outing (or a tentative plan/date) at the end of each outing.
  • Bigs and guardians should determine the best way to confirm outings (texting, calls or email leading up to the next outing).
  • For Littles with cell phones, starting a group chat between guardian, Big, and Little is a great way to keep everyone up to date and involved.

We all lead busy lives and juggle a lot, so it’s not uncommon to need to reach out 2-3 times to schedule an outing or get in contact.  Generally speaking, Bigs often take the lead in terms of reaching out given their role as volunteer and mentor.

If you’re finding that the strategies you’ve tried are not working, communicating these concerns to your Match Support Coordinator is highly recommended.  Match Support can help start additional outreach, propose additional ideas, and may even have new contact information for you to try.

Maintaining a Communication Plan

It’s possible that the style and mode of communication will change throughout the life of your match.  One natural inclination is to encourage older Littles to take more of a lead or become more involved in the planning process.  As this transition happens, it is very important that Bigs and guardians still maintain contact regarding outing plans and approval for outings.  Maintaining rapport between Bigs and guardians will remain useful in supporting the Little.Littles of varying ages can be hit or miss in terms of their response to texts or ability to finalize plans.  Remember, many kids in the pre-teen to teen ages are learning social etiquette and how to manage responsibility.  It’s also not uncommon for cell phone access to change for kids and families. Good practice is after 2-3 unanswered attempts, Bigs should be reaching out to their Little’s guardian.  Establishing this plan at the start may help eliminate any worry of tattling on the Little.

If you’re finding that the strategies you’ve tried are not working, communicating these concerns to your Match Support Coordinator is highly recommended.  Match Support can help start additional outreach, propose additional ideas, and may even have new contact information for you to try.

Setting Limits

Our program is focused primarily on fun!  That being said, there are times in every match when Bigs and guardians will need to set limits during outings.   Particularly in new friendships, it can be tough to balance the “fun” with having to say “no” or set boundaries. But there are times when establishing personal boundaries and expectations are important for the success and safety of an outing.  Bigs should feel empowered to say no or redirect Littles in the moment if behavior is unsafe or harmful.

A couple of examples might be parameters around using a cell phone during outings, frequency or length of outings, saying no to buying gifts or items, or to ensure safety.

Establishing match expectations should be a group effort; ideally a conversation that Big, guardian, and Little have together ahead of time and so everyone knows what to expect during an outing.  Having rapport between a Guardian and Big to discuss boundary setting is critical in order to support Littles healthy development and safety.  It can be very useful to re-establish expectations and boundaries at the start of each outing.  Littles may also need reminders during outings.

Tips for When Boundaries are Pushed:

  • Bigs should pull Little away from activity and or other people and calmly try to understand why Little is not following rules/boundary.
  • Bigs should talk to Guardians following an outing to inform them of behavior and best strategies navigating these behaviors in the future.  Consider how to engage Little in conversation based on their age and the rapport with Big.  Match Support can be a great resource for planning and navigating these conversations.
  • Bigs should end outings and call Guardian if Little is unable to self-regulate and follow boundaries set or be safe when out together.

Planning Outings/Frequency

In the first year of friendship, matches should be getting together 2x/month for 2-4 hours.  We often discourage higher frequency of outings to ensure that matches establish a routine that is sustainable for the long-term.  Short periods of increased frequency can be confusing and set unrealistic expectations.   If your match is not meeting these parameters, Bigs and guardians should be speaking with their Match Support Coordinator to discuss what’s realistic and expected for your match.

After the first year, 2x/month is still recommended, but providing consistency is the top priority. If outing frequency needs to be lowered, Bigs, Guardians and Littles should discuss why and what that looks like.

Choosing Activities
When it comes to choosing the activity idea, there are a variety of strategies you can use.

  • Bigs and Littles can create a bucket list of activities that they are excited to do together.  This list should be approved by the guardian and include a variety of low-cost and/or free activities.  Your Match Support Coordinator can help provide several activity list ideas to get you started with this.
  • Choose items from your bucket list randomly (use a jar or box to randomly pull out activity ideas).
  • Bigs and Littles can take turns choosing activities on a rotating schedule.  Bigs and Littles should choose outings approved by guardian, are within the general comfort zone of their Big/Little and cost appropriate.
  • Utilize community resources to attend a more date-specific event that is of interest to your Big/Little.
  • Bigs and guardians can work together to come up with three appropriate outings for Little to choose from.  Providing specific activity choices can often be more effective for kids than an open-ended question of “what do you want to do?”

Sometimes what initially works for planning and outings may need to be changed as your Little gets older.  It’s possible that your Little’s interests will change as they age, so revisiting the bucket list and overall outing expectations can be beneficial.

For older matches, there can also be a transition from formal, planned outings to more general “hang out and talk” outings.  These less formal planned outings can be just as successful and fun as activity focused outings.

It’s ok to repeat activities!  If you and our Little love a specific activity, embrace and foster that interest.  Match Support can also help strategize about how to foster CURIOSITY and new activities while maintaining some familiar outings.

Sibling Matches

Comparison is a common occurrence amongst siblings.  To help combat this, BBBSEM staff starts early in setting clear expectations with all Match Parties about what to expect and that differences amongst matches is ok.  Bigs and guardians can help manage Littles’ expectations by reiterating this messaging.  The key to our program is the personalized experience for each Big and Little, so what is successful for one match may not be success for another match (or what one match may enjoy, another may not).  If comparisons feel like a continued challenge, talk with your Match Support Coordinator for more ideas.

Developing a Cost Plan

The sooner you develop a cost plan and establish expectations, the better.  Activities should focus on free or low-cost the majority of the time, this helps keep activities sustainable and allows Bigs and Littles to focus on building a connection.  Bigs should not assume whether a Guardian wants to or is able to financially contribute or whether Bigs will always financially contribute.  For outings that do have a cost to enjoy, each match should identify a specific plan to cover that cost.  A great place to start is for Bigs and guardians to think personally about what they feel comfortable contributing to an outing, then explore this together.

Bigs, guardians and Littles should be speaking on a regular basis about the cost plan and costs accrued from outings. If guardians send their Little with spending money, talk specifically about how money should be used and if change is expected.  These proactive conversations help Bigs set clear limits with their Little during an outing and eliminate confusion and/or awkwardness later.

Your Match Support Coordinator can also be a great resource in helping to provide low-cost ideas and thinking through a cost plan that is comfortable for everyone.  Your local library is also a great resource for reserving free and discounted tickets.

Secrets

As friendships with Littles deepen and grow, Littles will grow to trust their Bigs more and more. Sometimes this leads to Littles sharing personal things about their lives. Keeping things confidential between friends is okay, unless a Big is concerned for their Little’s safety or if their Little is engaging in risky behavior. Do not promise to keep secrets before knowing what the secret is. If a Little talks about hurting themself or someone else, or talks about any risky behavior, it is important for their Big to bring this up with Match Support and the Little’s guardian. If a Big is not sure how to talk to the guardian about the information their Little has shared, Match Support will help walk through that process. When in doubt as to whether or not a Big can keep information their Little has shared confidential, err on the side of caution,  and talk to Match Support for guidance.

  • Keeping things confidential is okay, unless there is a concern or safety issue.
  • Don’t promise to keep a secret before hearing what it is  Bigs should never ask their Littles to keep a secret from anyone

For more information about our safety expectations related to secrets and confidences, check out our safety policies.