I often get asked how our Teen Lifeline curriculum works. Do we have a curriculum focused on anger management, grief or alcohol? My answer is always longer then people expect because when I say “No,” it involves an explanation of why that is the case.
We had another successful training a couple of weeks ago that put our number of trained volunteers over 80 people. This is very exciting for me and I hope for you too because it means reaching more teenagers! In that training, we explain a lot about the strategy behind our approach and curriculum, and how and why we use volunteers. For this post, I just want to focus on the core of why we believe the approach we have chosen will work when facilitating support groups for teenagers. For more on the impact we believe our groups have, you can read about the importance of Facing the Storms that will inevitably pour down on each of us in our life time.
To go back and answer the question that I began with, no we do not have topical based curriculum. There is a reason for this and I will get that soon.
For now it is important to understand that we are working with teenagers here. I know we are called Teen Lifeline, but sometimes people forget what being a teenager is about. I love the way Andy Stanley puts it in his Future Family Series, Session 6. The adolescent years are for coaching and that is what adults need to be doing. As parents, teachers, facilitators, doctors, ministers, and yes coaches. The adults that care about teenagers need to view their role as a coach. Someone who comes alongside to guide because they have invested the time or gained the life experience to enable that young person to be successful. Not to do it for them through forced discipline (there are times for that but they should be few at this stage) but rather through constant communication about what they see as important and how the decisions they make every day, even every hour, impact their ability to get to where they want to go. (If they don’t know where they want to go then maybe start with where they don’t want to go, but for the most part a teen can articulate where they want to go even if it is as simple as “out of Miss SoAndSo’s class”).
Once that is established the important thing is to understand these key areas. They are the core of our curriculum. Staying focused on these will help you, as the influential adult, model and encourage positive thinking and behavior that the teen you are working with will thank you for later.
1. Stress Management. These ideas tend to be pretty simple, but in our groups, it is two sided. You need to allow for discussion about how the teens have tried negative stress management tools. Discuss how those have worked, then allow them to brainstorm new ideas. Going through this process invites them to commit to at least thinking about trying some of the new ideas.
2. Relationships. We all have some relationship with someone our whole life. Unless you are Tom Hanks stuck on an island, relationships are part of life and knowing how to navigate them is vital. The key here is discussing whether the relationships they are currently in are helping them get to where they want to go or holding them back and distracting them from the things that they believe are really important.
3. Resources. Knowing where to find the right resources can often be tricky. Especially if the adults around you are not modeling this behavior effectively. For many teenagers, asking for help from adults is either daunting or considered a weakness. Showing them you can be a positive resource, admitting that not all adults qualify for this category and helping them think of people that do are all aspects of making this discussion successful.
4. Connection. By being a part of the group, they are getting to see how connecting can work in their favor. All to often, even with peers, others have an agenda and you have to watch your back. At least that is the feeling many teenagers have. They don’t feel safe. When they are made to feel safe in our groups they begin to see that they can rely on others, and be vulnerable if they choose the right people and places to do that. Ultimately, they don’t ever have to be alone.
Focusing on these areas are what help us successfully address the needs of many different kinds of students. The truth is you can do it too. It takes some practice and maybe going through our facilitator training would help but it can be done.
If you know someone that would benefit from reading through these focus areas and rethinking how they are currently approaching life take a minute to share this post! We just want it to reach as many people as possible to make a difference and start changing the very culture teenagers are living in today.