Getting a big brother for your son can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the big brother, your son, and your entire family. Having a caring role model and friend can provide immeasurable value during a boy’s formative years and help shape him into a well-rounded, compassionate young man.
This comprehensive guide will provide everything you need to know about finding and selecting an appropriate big brother program, understanding the commitment and responsibilities involved, choosing the right big brother for your son, facilitating a successful match, and making the most out of the big brother relationship to positively impact your son’s life.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters is the largest and most reputable mentoring organization for creating matches between adult volunteers and youth in need of positive role models.
- The application process involves interviews, background checks, and training to ensure child safety and a good fit.
- Matches are facilitated based on shared interests, compatibility, and the preferences of your son.
- Big brothers commit to spending 2-4 times per month together engaging in activities.
- Matches often form life-long bonds and have been shown to greatly reduce risky behaviors in youth.
- You play an important role in supporting the match and being involved at the right level.
- Patience through initial adjustment periods leads to rewarding long-term relationships.
Choosing a Big Brother Organization
The most well-known and reputable organization for finding mentors and big brothers for boys in the United States and Canada is Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). They are the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network.
Here are some key facts about BBBS:
- They have over 230 local agencies serving over 5,000 communities across North America.
- BBBS has formed over 2 million mentoring matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and youth (“Littles”) ages 6-18 since their founding in 1904.
- Their programs serve youth ages 6-18 in communities across the US and Canada.
- 1 in 3 youth matched with a Big Brother say their mentor played a key role in helping them avoid risky behaviors.
- BBBS facilitates community-based mentoring programs as well as school and site-based programs. Community-based matches involve getting together for activities outside of school.
BBBS has a longstanding reputation for child safety and effective mentoring programming. Their matching process is designed to find compatible Bigs and Littles based on shared interests, preferences, personalities, and geographic proximity.
If you don’t have access to a local BBBS agency, you can explore other non-profit youth mentoring programs in your area. Look for organizations that thoroughly screen mentors, provide training, offer ongoing support for the match, and focus on positive youth development.
Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and faith-based groups may also have mentoring initiatives. Just be sure to ask about their application process, screening procedures, policies, training, and match support before moving forward.
The Big Brothers Application and Screening Process
Here is an overview of what to expect when you apply to get your son a Big Brother through the BBBS program:
Initial Inquiry: You’ll complete an inquiry form on their website or contact your local agency to express interest. This kicks off the process.
Orientation: You and your son will attend an orientation to learn all about their programs and what to expect.
Child Application: You’ll fill out an in-depth application about your son’s background, interests, preferences, and needs.
Interviews: Your son will be interviewed by a case manager at BBBS to assess objectives and preferences. You’ll also do a comprehensive interview.
Background Checks: Potential Bigs undergo detailed screening including reference checks, criminal background checks at national and local levels, driving records checks, and child abuse registry checks.
Mentor Training: Bigs complete 2-4 hours of required training before being matched. Training covers child safety, relationship building, positive youth development, and communication strategies.
Match Process: Using the results of the application process, the BBBS team facilitates compatible matches based on shared interests, preferences, and goals.
The extensive application and screening process is designed to protect child safety and lead to effective long-lasting matches. Be sure your son understands why BBBS asks so many questions – it’s to find the perfect Big just for him!
Key Commitments and Expectations
As a parent, you need to fully understand the commitments involved when welcoming a new Big Brother into your son’s life.
Here are the key expectations:
- Minimum 1 year commitment. Matches are intended to span the entire course of your child’s adolescence. The average match lasts 2 years.
- 2-4 outings per month. Bigs are expected to spend a few hours 2-4 times monthly doing activities with their Little. Outings often involve sports, hiking, fishing, museums, meals, games, helping with schoolwork, or exploring shared hobbies.
- Ongoing communication. Bigs should maintain regular contact with your son in between outings via text, phone, video chats, letters, or social media based on your preferences.
- Match support. You’ll check in regularly with the BBBS case manager overseeing the match to give feedback, address any issues, and support a successful long-term relationship.
- Maintaining boundaries. You and the Big will collaborate to maintain appropriate relationship boundaries and uphold BBBS policies. Romantic relationships are prohibited.
As the parent, you’ll need to work collaboratively with the Big and be responsive to the BBBS case manager to enable a flourishing match. While rewarding, welcoming a Big Brother does involve commitment from your entire family.
The Matching Process: Finding the Right Fit
The process of getting matched with just the right Big Brother is facilitated very thoughtfully by the expert BBBS match specialists.
Here are some of the most important factors they take into account:
- Shared interests and activities: Does the Big enjoy sports, gaming, hiking, chess, cars, art, or music like your son? Shared passions fuel great matches.
- Preferences: Your son will be asked to share his preferences in a Big Brother’s age, background, interests, and general personality. The agency takes these strongly into account.
- Compatibility: Key indicators like sense of humor, communication styles, temperament, and emotional needs are evaluated.
- Goals: Desired outcomes like confidence building, cultural experiences, academic assistance, learning a skill, or having an active lifestyle guide matches.
- Logistics: Location, availability, transportation, and mobility are practical considerations for successful matches.
- Intuition: Match specialists get to know each child and volunteer well during the enrollment process and use their intuition to find promising connections.
The match process is handled with great care because it is the foundation for mentoring relationships that can last for years and have immense positive impact. Keep an open mind, communicate any strong preferences, and trust the agency’s expertise.
Early Days: Adjusting to a New Big Brother
Don’t expect an immediate, perfect bond when your son first meets his new Big Brother. Building a strong connection takes time, patience, and active participation.
Here are some things you can expect as they adjust to each other:
- Awkwardness: Early outings may feel a little awkward or uncomfortable as they try to break the ice and figure out how to interact. This is very normal!
- Warm-up period: It may take a few months of regularly spending time together for your son to warm up, open up, and fully trust his new Big Brother. Be patient.
- Differing expectations: Your son may need to adjust his expectations around the types of activities the Big enjoys or his interaction style.
- Conflicts: Minor disagreements or conflicts can arise. With support from you and their match specialist, they’ll work through them.
- Communication: Frequent check-ins will help you monitor how things are going and address any issues early on. Notice signs of progress!
With realistic expectations, encouragement, and patience, almost all matches that make it through the initial adjustment phase end up forming very strong bonds. Have faith in the process.
Making the Most of the Big Brother Experience
To help your son have the most positive, meaningful experience possible, here are some pointers:
- Finding common interests: Have your son show his Big Brother his favorite books, video games, card collection, or other interests to help break the ice and bond.
- Sharing feelings: Check in with your son regularly to see how he feels about the match so far. Provide a safe space for him to share any frustrations, concerns, or highlights.
- Encouraging openness: Remind your son that opening up and being vulnerable is key to forming a strong connection but takes time and courage.
- Troubleshooting: If any issues come up, collaborate with the case manager right away to troubleshoot and get the match back on track.
- Patience and persistence: Remember that awkward phases are normal and things often get much better after pushing through initial discomfort.
- Gratitude and generosity: Have your son make small gifts or write thank you notes to show his Big Brother appreciation. This strengthens their bond.
- Photo journaling: Suggest your son keeps a journal of their favorite memories and activities to look back on.
With active engagement, the Big Brother experience can change your son’s life and worldview for the better. Keep lines of communication open to ensure it’s a positive.
The Impact of a Big Brother Relationship
The most successful Big-Little matches lead to transformative outcomes and lifelong bonds.
Here are some of the positive impacts reported by Boys with Big Brothers:
- Confidence – Boys become more confident and comfortable in who they are thanks to the affirmation, encouragement, and unconditional acceptance of their Big Brother.
- Perspective – Exposure to someone with a different background and new experiences helps broaden horizons. Boys learn empathy.
- Emotional skills – Boys develop greater ability to communicate feelings, resolve conflicts, and build intimacy through the relationship.
- Risky behavior prevention – Boys are significantly less likely to get involved with drugs, alcohol, crime, or violence thanks to their Big Brother’s positive influence.
- School engagement – Academic performance, motivation, and aspirations improve with a Big Brother’s guidance and encouragement.
- Healthy relationships – Boys learn trust, vulnerability, conflict resolution, and communication from the bonding experience.
- Fun and happiness – The reliable companionship and joy brought through fun new adventures is invaluable.
- Vision – Having a caring mentor envision a bright future and believe in a boy’s potential is empowering.
The life lessons, skills gained, happy memories, and experiences of being valued are gifts that will shape your son forever. Welcoming a Big Brother into his life is a truly wise investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are Big Brothers screened and selected?
Big Brothers go through a rigorous application and screening process including interviews, background checks, and reference checks before being matched with a Little Brother. This ensures child safety.
Can a family member be a Big Brother?
Relatives are discouraged from becoming a Little’s official Big Brother to maintain healthy boundaries. However, they can certainly serve as informal mentors.
How are matches determined?
Expert case managers carefully facilitate matches based on the child’s preferences, shared interests, personalities, goals, and careful intuition. Compatibility is key.
How involved should I be in their activities?
You’ll agree upon a comfortable level of involvement with the Big. Attending the first few get togethers can help your son adjust. But alone time is ideal too.
How often do Bigs and Littles meet?
The minimum commitment is 2-4 times per month for a few hours each outing. Regular contact in between is also encouraged via text, video chat, etc.
How long do most matches last?
The average match lasts about two years. But many lead to life-long bonds that continue informally even after the formal match closes when the child turns 18.
Welcoming an older mentor and positive role model into your son’s world through the gift of a Big Brother is a decision that can positively shape his life trajectory. The research-backed benefits range from better academic performance and future aspirations to learning invaluable emotional skills that will serve him well into adulthood.
With the right guidance and support, these relationships create magical memories that light up childhoods while providing a foundation for healthy relationships, confidence, and realizing one’s full potential. There will inevitably be bumps along the road, but if you are willing to put in the time, effort, and patience, few things can compare to the lasting impact of a Big Brother bond.