I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while, since we have a BB/BS office here in Lansing that desperately needs grown-ups to match to kids. I had a friend who was a Big Sister last year and she enjoyed spending time with her “Little”, but she said that the girl’s family was almost never home when they said they’d be home, or they’d bail at the last minute after my friend had planned her day around it, things like that. I’m hoping this isn’t a common scenario!
If any of you have ever been involved as a Big, I have a few concerns you could address:
what are some fun things you can do with a kid that don’t cost much money? (I know you’re encouraged to spend as little money as possible, but I’d love to take a kid to a museum or concert, etc., regardless of the cost)
I know that the minimum age is six, but I have more experience with smaller children, and I don’t know how much fun I’d be for an older child (see the above concern - some of the things I like to do might seem a little boring).
are you allowed to show affection to your kid? I love to give kids hugs, but I don’t need the cops knocking on my door after my kid tells her mom, “She touched me!”
if you and your kid just don’t click, is there a graceful way to bow out?
… Or you can just tell me your stories, whether you’ve been involved as a Big or a Little.
Yep! Big Brother in college for 2 years, I can help quite a bit.
(this was back in '89-90 in Wooster, Ohio, BTW):
first, they’ll do an interview and ask you questions. They try to match you with a family that’s similar as far as physical affection (I, too, am a hugger, it was normal to put my arm around my Little when consolign him about something, etc.), discipline, communication, etcd., as a way of matching you as best they can. So, you won’t have to worry about comlaints like that, and will really get a kid who will be at least somewhat interested int he same stuff you are.
My experience was that they let you meet your match in their home first, and talk with thenm, and decide if it’s okay, then every 2 months or so the workers do a followup. Depending on your population and stuff, of course, it might not be as often as in Wayne County, OH. (Also was likely more comon b/c of it being college students, they want to make sure things are fine b/c they know the students will be leaving anyway after 9 months many times,a nd they don’t want the kids to have a whole lot of different ones.)
Some of the things I did with my match (who was 9 &10):
Crafty stuff, built things out of popsicle sticks, did models of stuff (I’m no good with that, but it was simple, something he liked, and he good feel good at not being any worse than me)
Drew pictures on my computer and wrote stories together to go along with them.
Played frisbee and went bolwing at the local college lanes (BB/BS got in free w/their matches)
Took one long trip to a museum in Canton (the historical one which also has a hands-on science part) at the end of my junior year, taught him the basics of golf the end of my senior year as an end of year thing (to cap off a fun year)
Walked around the campus Christmas carolling before Winter Break. (the family was/is Christian, as was/am I)
Neat note to this, my match had enjoyed drawing before, but I helped him find something he really liked, & last I heard (about 8 years ago :-(, his goal was to become an animator for Disney. It was fun to see this come out of him, and to know I had a small part in it.
I’ll bump it too, as I forgot to mention the local Y had discount swimming for BB/BS, so we did that too. However, I thought for sure someone else would mention this, b/c I thought for sure there would be quite a few other respondents.
You might was to do a websearch, I imagine there are sites with ideas on what to do with your match.
I’ve been a Big Sister for almost three years now, and this year I was part of their Speaker’s Bureau, which essentially means that I get to go to business and tell my story of being a Big, to help raise money for the organization. I really can’t say enough good things about it.
But to answer your questions:
The important thing to remember is that your Little will have fun with you, no matter what. Ask any Little what their favorite thing to do with their Big is, and they’ll always list free things: baking cookies, playing basketball, rollerskating, swimming, going on a picnic. Just remember what was fun to you when you were a kid, and do those things.
My Little and I have covered the Twin Cities from edge to edge in our adventures together. We’ve decorated trees for wildlife around the holidays, gone to concerts, watched movies and eaten out.
Every week, I get an email newsletter from BBBS, detailing all the cool events, discounts and activities available that week. BBBS hosts things like picnics, roller and ice skating events, swimming and bowling. They also make tickets to sporting events and plays available for Bigs and Littles. They host about 6 free events each year, and lots more that cost around $5.
You can specify what ages you’d like to work with. The waiting lists here are LONG, there are plenty of kids of every age who need a Big. The younger children get matched more quickly, because lots of volunteers prefer working with younger kids. My Little was 11 when we were matched, and is now 14. I thought it would be a little intimidating to work with an older child, but she’s been wonderful, and I wouldn’t want it any other way, now. An advantage to older kids is that they’re more definite in what they enjoy, and really help you make decisions about how to spend your time together.
Yes! The only guideline is to let the kid set the limits. They should initiate at least the first hug, but other than that, just go with the flow. These are usually kids that live in really chaotic circumstances, and most kids crave the physical attention as well as the emotional/psychological support. My Little and I hug a lot, put our arms around each others’ shoulders, tickle, mock fight, whatever. Don’t worry too much about it – you’ll wind up with a relationship with the Little’s parent/guardian(s), and you’ll know what’s OK.
Yes. Do remember that you get to specifiy, in as much detail as you’d like, what type of child you’d like to work with. And, the Littles all fill out the same forms, saying what kind of Big they’d like to work with. You’ll be matched initially based on that. Then, you’ll go to a meeting at the Little’s house, with the kid’s guardians and your match support person. After that initial meeting, you’re encouraged to go somewhere with the kid and get to know one another. At that point, you or the kid can say you’d like someone else.
The minimum time commitment is one year. A lot of matches fail before that, though, for whatever reason. I really feel for the kids in those situtations.
Also know that you’ll get good training on how to talk with your Little, conversation starters, tips on some awkward situations you might run into (hygiene, or someone in their family hitting oyu up for money, or whatever). You’ll feel prepared by the time you’re matched.
This post is getting really long, sorry. Just one more thing:
There are four different programs that BBBS offers in most areas. My Little and I are in the community-based one, which looks like the one you’re thinking about. But, volunteers can also participate as a Big Couple, where two adults are paired with one child (any two adults, don’t have to be married, can be any gender, any relationship). The school-based program brings Bigs to meet their Littles at the Little’s school once a week, with a focus on academic work as well as fun. And finally, Club Connect is entirely event-based, for Littles who have not yet been matched with a Big. When you volunteer for Club Connect, you’re able to go to a basketball game, and ice-cream social or another fun, single activity with a kid. It’s perfect for people who’d like to support BBBS, but aren’t able to commit more time right now. It’s also a way to hang out with a variety of kids, and if there’s one you really hit it off with, you might take her as your Little in the community-based program.
Good luck! I hope you decide to do it – I think you’ll love it.
I’ve been thinking about applying to be a Big Sister too.
Some of my questions:
-How long does it usually take to go through the screening and training process?
-Have you ever had a situation where the kid started misbehaving on an outing? If so, how did you deal with it? I think that would be really awkward for me, since I wouldn’t want to overstep my bounds as a non-parent.
Thanks to those of you who have given info about what it’s like.
Hope some more people who have been involved join this thread.