If you’re present, they will come.

If you’re present, they will come.

In March of 2020, I knew the names of a lot of my neighbors. We’d lived in our house for over 4 years, and we’d always walked a lot around our neighborhood. We have the kind of neighborhood where a lot of people sit on their front porch or stop us to ask if the boys would like to pet their dog. So, we probably knew the names of a few people on every street- in a casual, hello and goodbye sort of way.

I knew the names of my immediate neighbors but rarely saw them for more than a few minutes at a time.

And then suddenly, we were home. And all we had to do was walk. As a consequence, we were always outside, and very often, if we weren’t walking, we were camped out in our garage or on our driveway.

If anyone appeared in our alleyway for any reason, we were ready with enthusiastic hellos and nothing but time.

It didn’t happen overnight.

But in a long series of waves and hellos, we made friends. They brought their vacation pictures from 20 years ago to show us the time they were in Rome. We traded halves of cakes, loaves of bread, and cups of sugar.

We watched the people on our street change and new people arrived. There we were with baked goods and enthusiastic hellos, and more to the point, availability.

We don’t know everyone the same, but our relationships are deeper. More meaningful. More connected.

Somewhere in the middle, people went back to the office or back to restaurants and stores, but they also started coming over and cracking the front door to call in when they knew we were home. People who have little in common with us except for location became friends.

I tell you this story to say this:

You may feel like you have nothing in common with teens. Like they don’t want you around or don’t want to talk. But the number one quality that will draw them in and keep them coming back is availability.

Your un-pressured, unhurried, undivided presence.

It may seem impossible for any number of reasons. But if you build it, they will come.

Make tea, grab a book, and wait where they will be, ready with an enthusiastic hello and nothing but time.

Our CEO, Chris Robey, was talking about tech breaks recently. One day, he was walking into a support group he was leading when he realized he had left his phone in his car by accident. He usually set his phone to “do not disturb”. However, he found that he was more present and a better listener without it. He wasn’t wondering whether he needed to answer a text or how much time they had left. In short, he was more available, physically and mentally.

After that group, he started leaving his phone on purpose. If it’s as easy as removing the distraction, why not?

A huge part of availability is removing distractions and showing up!

Here are a few tips for setting the stage:

  • Set aside time every day that you aren’t looking at your phone.
  • Don’t take it personally if it seems like they don’t have time or don’t care. It definitely matters to them, but sometimes, at the moment, they don’t recognize it.
  • Be wherever your teen will find you. Pick a common area where you can read a book, fold laundry, do a crossword puzzle, or do anything else that doesn’t require a screen. If you aren’t present, it’s harder to be available. As a bonus, slowing down sets a great example and is good for your mental health.
  • Create opportunity. Invite your teen to do something they enjoy regularly. Ask them for help with something you don’t know how to do. Ask them to go for a walk around the block. If you continue to seek them out, they are more likely to do the same.
  • Be emotionally present. When appropriate, talk about your feelings and ask them about theirs. Get curious about what makes them tick.
  • Be shock-proof no matter what. You might not get a second chance if they don’t feel like they can trust you with hard things.

​If you haven’t been readily available before now, creating trust will take time. But trust me, if you stay consistent, they will come.

Consider the time you spend now on availability an investment in your relationship. Over the long term, the payoff is most likely better than you expect it will be!

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Digital Media Manager

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind. She’s been refining messages and telling stories for brands and non-profits since 2009.

Ep. 55: End of School & Graduation Gifts

Ep. 55: End of School & Graduation Gifts

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Summary:
The end of the year is a busy, sometimes stressful time for students, teachers, and parents alike. As everyone wraps up another school year, we’ve got tips and tricks for finishing the year strong, out-of-the-box graduation gifts, and keeping in touch after commencement.

In this episode, we mentioned or used the following resources:

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and has always had a heart for teenagers and the vulnerable life stage they are in. She has a wealth of experience to share from working with teens in ministry and leading support groups.

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Ep. 52: Alcohol & Testing

Ep. 52: Alcohol & Testing

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Summary:
If you’ve ever been a teen, past or present, you know that teenage drinking is an unavoidable topic. Whether or not you suspect your teen is consuming alcohol, it’s a conversation worth having.

We’re here in episode 52 of the Teen Life Podcast to give you a better picture of what the stats are for underage drinking in 2022, as well as tips for having useful conversations about it.

We also talk ACT versus SAT testing, the benefits of each and why schools are moving away from requiring test scores for admission. Stick around for our test-taking tips at the end!

In this episode, we mentioned or used the following resources:

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and has always had a heart for teenagers and the vulnerable life stage they are in. She has a wealth of experience to share from working with teens in ministry and leading support groups.

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Diagnosis: Loneliness

Diagnosis: Loneliness

Truth be told, I’m a pretty stubborn guy. Just ask anyone in my family. It’s a feature which serves me well at times, but more often than not is to my detriment. The main area I tend to be stubborn is being honest about my shortcomings. Often when confronted with areas I don’t measure up, I default more to defensiveness than acceptance and this leads to more friction.

Why am I telling you this, you might wonder? Well, I wish to be as honest as I can on this post as a way to forge some crucial conversations around our teenagers.

The truth is: I have been lonely lately.

And, I think it has been that way since this pandemic hit. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have amazing relationships in my life that are there for me at the drop of a hat. I lack nothing in relationships. But, that is what makes this so weird to reckon with.

During the early days of the pandemic, we stayed home and hunkered down. I didn’t see anyone (physically) outside of my family for a very extended period of time. I associated physical connection with disease and spread. While it was necessary and needed, it was also traumatic and life-altering.

There was a lot of fear in those early days of the pandemic. When fear persists, we withdraw and keep tight circles as means of preservation. And, this is quite natural…over short periods of time.

But the long, drawn out nature of this pandemic has turned what was supposed to be temporary to a full scale upheaval of our habits and impulses.

And when we change the very nature of our relationships over a long enough period, they become “the new normal” that everyone likes to refer to.

Our interactions have become shorter. We leave the house less. Fewer details are shared in conversations. We say less. When people call, we hit “decline” even though we know it would be good to talk.

I am lonely. Likely you are too.

And the teenagers in our world almost certainly are.

A recent study found 61% of young adults (including older adolescents) reported feeling “serious loneliness” in the past month while only 27% of adults 55-65 reported this form of loneliness.

The supposed “most connected generation” is in-turn the most lonely and disconnected of all. (Read our recent post on gen z and loneliness.)

I guess what I am saying is if you or I are feeling lonely, that burden likely falls much heavier on the shoulders of the younger and more vulnerable of our population.

We see it in our support groups every week here at Teen Life. Since schools have reopened, our teens are quick to talk, lean in, and share. We take for granted that today’s teenagers actually have someone to talk to about meaningful things! I’ve been shocked how quickly and to what degree teens will share vulnerable and honest information about their lives.

Teens are lonely. So are we.

So, what do we do?

A recent New York Times article goes into great detail on this “Loneliness Epidemic” happening within one of the largest cities on the planet – New York City. Towards the end of the article, the authors share some ideas on how to combat this epidemic, but one really stood out to me.

Ask for help.

But, I don’t mean it the way it probably sounds.

That is, ask for help for….something. Anything.

For a teenager, maybe the ask for help with:

  • Homework
  • A problem to solve
  • Relationship issues
  • Learning something new
  • A challenge

When teens hear “ask for help” it’s often interpreted as “cry out for help” – which seems overwhelming. But when we just ask for help, we are communicating a need for connection, and giving someone else an opportunity to step in and get the good feeling of helping someone.

Everyone wins, and everyone’s a little less lonely.

An epidemic like loneliness can only be defeated by pulling together for the sake of the most vulnerable. The teens in our lives need us more than ever, and if we can give them better tools (like teaching them how to ask for help), we will see a generation that finds hope in healthier relationships and deeper connections.

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.
Ep. 50: Teen Life’s Top Five

Ep. 50: Teen Life’s Top Five

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Summary:
It’s our 50th episode since rebooting the podcast and we’re celebrating by revisiting some of our most impactful topics, trends and tips! Listen to get a great overview of topics like trauma triggers, pronouns, and helping teens manage stress.

We’ll also see how some of the trends we’ve talked about have panned out. We know that it’s hard for teachers and parents to protect their own mental health sometimes. Make sure to catch our tips for staying healthy yourself while working with teens.

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and has always had a heart for teenagers and the vulnerable life stage they are in. She has a wealth of experience to share from working with teens in ministry and leading support groups.

Follow Us