Notes About Ending Your Internship

You will have had a significant impact in the life of the children you meet.  You may have had very high aspirations or goals for your work with students.  For example, perhaps you wished to help a child learn to read at their grade level.  This is not a short-term goal.  Rather, the contributions that you did make are just as important as teaching reading skills.  Much of what we do for children on a day-to-day basis seems routine or unimportant, but positive events accumulate in the lives of children, leading them to more positive outcomes.

As you say goodbye, do not be surprised if the students react strongly.  Some children may become teary-eyed, others may act as though they do not care.  Many of the youth have experienced a great deal of loss in their lives, and they may be likely to withdraw or show regression behavior in anticipation of the program’s ending.  Understand your own feelings of loss and separation, and use your genuine feelings to model healthy “good-byes”.  You could try explaining that people can care very much for each other, but still have to go in different directions.  Reassure the children that you will think of them from time to time, and you would like to think they will do the same.

Steps for Ending the Relationships at Your Internship

  • Have it take place gradually. Give your mentee ample warning of the closure of the match.
  • Be clear about the date of your last meeting and be sure to inform your mentee of this ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last meeting to say goodbye. Make sure you start addressing this issue as soon as you know the relationship will be coming to a close.
  • Plan a fun activity together prior to the termination date. Do something extra special for your last meeting.
  • Be honest, candid, and supportive, regardless of the reason for the termination.
  • Encourage your mentee to express his or her feelings about this transition. Help your mentee to express his or her emotions by modeling the behavior. For example, if your relationship is coming to a close and you and your mentee enjoyed your time together, you might say something like “I am going to really miss you. I have enjoyed our time together.” However, you must be honest. If your relationship is coming to a close and your time together was all right but not great, then don’t lie and say that you are going to be sad that this is over. Also, do not expect the young person to reciprocate. Even though you shared your emotions as a mentor, your mentee still might not feel comfortable sharing his or her emotions.
  • Be prepared for your mentee’s anger or denial (often in the form of missed appointments)
  • Help him/her anticipate these feelings. Be aware of and monitor your own feelings of guilt, sadness, relief, etc.

The Mentor/Mentee Relationship

  • Use the termination process as a means to recall your mentee’s strengths and progress.
  • Reassure your mentee about your confidence in him/her.
  • Mentors who are terminating because of time limitations or other reasons not related to the mentee need to make particularly clear to the mentee that he/she did not do anything to make the mentor leave. The mentor should share with the mentee the things about the mentee that he/she liked.
  • Mutually agree on how and when/if you will stay in touch. Follow through on that commitment.
  • Don’t make promises that you cannot keep.