Ep. 5: Developing Thrivers with Dr. Michele Borba

Ep. 5: Developing Thrivers with Dr. Michele Borba

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Summary:
What takes a kid from being a “striver” to being a “thriver”?

Dr. Michele Borba is an educational psychologist, best-selling author, and TODAY show contributor who has spoken to over one million participants on five continents and to countless media about child development issues.

This week, Chris talks with Dr. Borba about the 7 teachable traits that, when combined with a caring adult, become the keys to resilience.

To hear more, be sure to join us for the Teen Life Summit, May 11-12, 2021 and use the code podcast20 for $20 off!

In this episode, we mentioned 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 now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

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Ep. 4: Dating Relationships & Streaming Services

Ep. 4: Dating Relationships & Streaming Services

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Summary:
The dating scene for teenagers today is very different than it was for millennials and Gen Xers. On episode 4 of the Teen Life Podcast, Chris and Karlie talk current teen dating lingo and habits, so you can know what to talk about and when to ask questions. Also, get ideas for what to watch as a family and what to look out for on popular streaming services. You won’t want to miss this week’s tip on how to start conversations with your teen about race.

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Teen terms to note:

  • Ghosting: To suddenly stop communicating with a person (without explanation)
  • Zombieing: To randomly text or call after ghosting someone
  • Talking: To be interested in each other, but not officially dating
  • Sexting: To exchange texts and usually photos of a sexual nature
  • Hooking Up: Used for anything from kissing to sex
  • Netflix & Chill: Used as a front for inviting someone over to make out (or maybe more)
  • DTR: Define the Relationship
Movies to watch together that discuss race or diversify your content:

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 now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

Follow Us

Building Resilience Together

Building Resilience Together

My family had a week this month where, from the smallest to the tallest, we were impatient and short-tempered. In a word, grumpy. With no particular cause, rhyme or reason. And then I realized. About a year ago, my oldest came home from school for Spring Break. And he didn’t go back—or go anywhere really—for quite some time.

Grumpy wasn’t the word. Traumatized.

I must admit, quarantine is my jam. From sourdough baking to setting the table for “fancy” breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and long walks around the neighborhood, we have lived up the slow life despite the many setbacks of the Virus.

But there’s something engrained in our DNA that remembers the initial shock and worry of the Unknown and Unplanned For that came last March.

For so many teens, staying home didn’t or doesn’t mean three meals a day with the whole family. At an age where the rituals of graduation and prom and seeing friends at school feel essential, teens were stripped of their rites of passage.

For all of us, last March was traumatic. And despite even the best situations, this year was lonely for most of us.

But with teens in particular, we have an incredible opportunity. At an age where they understand loss, they appreciate more than ever when we take the time to teach them how to overcome it.

And it’s teachable!

In Michele Borba’s* new book, Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine, she breaks resilience in to seven teachable traits. Self-confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance and optimism. Beyond the ability to perform in school, kids that possess any combination of these traits have the ability to thrive. Kenneth Ginsberg in a similar fashion talks about confidence, competence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.

It’s why we love Support Groups. When students leave our groups after eight weeks saying things like, “I started taking time to think about a situation and find a positive outlook” or “Everyone is struggling with something. I’m not the only one who feels this way.”, we know we’re on to something.

We have an opportunity. Now more than ever, parents, educators, friends, in passing anecdotes and stories, dinner conversations and analyzing math problems, we can give our students a better, fresher start, starting now. We can build resilience together.

A few suggestions:

  1. Foster conversations about emotions. Help them notice the emotions that characters might be feeling in a story. Turn off the electronics and ask them what makes them happy. What makes them sad? At our house, we play a game called High, Low, Buffalo where everyone has the opportunity to share a high, a low and anything random about their day. Sometimes we stay at the table longer to finish. I’ve found it creates opportunity for connection, but also optimism, even when the first answer is that the whole day was horrible.
  2. Get excited about the things they get excited about. Without pushing, prodding or encouraging, share their joy.
  3. Asking questions is more powerful than solving their problems. For us Type A Overachievers it’s easy to jump in and fix everything, but handing back the control fosters confidence and perseverance. Most of the time, they just need someone who cares to listen while they think things through.
  4. Play “what if.” Help them recognize things that trigger their emotions and help them make a plan in advance for how to deal with it.
  5. Express your gratitude for at least one thing every day and encourage them to do the same. I’m not talking toxic positivity. Sometimes there’s only one, but one good thing can help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

No matter whether the students in your life are struggling, striving, or thriving, reinforcing social emotional learning will help them succeed now and as they grow. It’s a win-win.

Have more suggestions on how to help teens thrive? Tell us in the comments!

 

*We’re looking forward to hearing more from Dr. Michele Borba on resilience and raising the pandemic generation at the Teen Life Summit! Click here for info and registration.

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Assistant

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind.

Shifting Gears

Shifting Gears

We live in a world that invokes anxiety in even the most tranquil souls. A pandemic, social isolation, social media, job insecurity… the last 12 months alone have gone beyond the average social drama. Current reality is so far beyond the imaginable that even soap operas are losing their appeal.

As anxiety producing as current events are, isn’t it perhaps anxiety itself that has driven Americans to our current state?

When we are secure in our own well-being and sense of self, we are better at winning and losing graciously. We do a better job of looking out for others’ well-being because their well-being doesn’t feel like a threat against our own.

So how do we break the cycle? How do we help teens learn to regulate their emotions, and how do we teach them to be more empathetic?

The National Association of School Psychologists gave a press release in October 2020 on ensuring student well-being during the election. Although it’s framed in the context of school and the 2020 election, it’s one of the most comprehensive lists on shaping empathy and emotional well-being in kids and teens.

Here’s my general interpretation of their list.
Build a shared sense of community. It’s all about trust and respect: adult to adult; adult to teen; and everything in between.
Be the change. If you’re not, they won’t be either.
Help the people around you feel safe. No matter the political climate, no one deserves to feel marginalized or at risk.
Create an expectation of acceptance. Racism, systematic inequity or violence are never ok. Bullying is never ok.
Ask questions vs. leveling accusations or generalizing. Stay curious and encourage students to do the same.
Funnel interests and energy into positive actions. Taking action and helping others is empowering.

But how do we do that?

Dr. Lori Desautels, assistant professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, specializes in neuroscience in the classroom. She calls anxiety “our nation’s new learning disability” and is a strong advocate for co-regulation in the classroom, as well as explicitly teaching social-emotional skills.

Her methods are similar to Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) strategies and start with adults learning to calm their own anxieties in order to create a contagiously calm atmosphere. Instead of “managing” a household or a classroom, adults “co-regulate” emotions, equipping students with the skills they need to negotiate stressful situations and to learn.

The concept is not new, though it is easy to forget in the moment. By setting the example first and foremost, by “being the change,” we help those around us feel safe. We calm others’ state of “fight or flight” and set the groundwork for building trust and acceptance.

We can teach teens language to identify their emotions by responding to perceived defiance and arrogance with “That must feel very…” “This must make you feel…” “You sound so…” Desautels says instead of answering a complaint or encouraging their escalation, hear the feeling and mirror that. Wait for their response.
Using a 2×10 strategy strengthens trust and helps teens feel seen. Intentionally taking 2 minutes for 10 days in a row to ask about their passion or their lives is a game changer.
Creating a 5 to 10-minute ritual at the beginning or end of the period, interaction, or day creates ‘family privilege’ with teenagers. Because students live chaotic lives and often lack trust-worthy adults, working on mindfulness or Focused Attention Practices will support predictability and encourage a calm state.

When the stakes feel high, it’s hard. When we don’t feel that we have a network of people who help us co-regulate ourselves, whether at work or at home, it’s very hard. But it is essential work.

As parents, teachers and administrators, anxiety is a lion we must learn to tame daily with great intentionality. In doing so, we help position those entrusted to our care to thrive.

Resources:
https://www.nasponline.org/about-school-psychology/media-room/press-releases/nasp-guidance-for-ensuring-student-well-being-in-the-context-of-the-2020-election?utm_content=bufferfbc49&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer&fb

https://www.burnedinteacher.com/blog/ep-028-dr-lori-desautels-helps-us-coregulate-ourselves-and-our-students

http://revelationsineducation.com/how-neuroscience-helps-kids-heal-from-trauma/

 

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Assistant

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind. 

Ask Culture and Guess Culture

Ask Culture and Guess Culture

I was scrolling through a Facebook group recently and one of the members shared this Tumbler post. For the original post the author is referencing, see here. To summarize the post, someone who lives in New York has a friend asking to stay in his home. The first time he and his wife had a ready excuse. The second time, he’s asking for advice on how to say no to the request, and essentially what would be the nuances of rudeness in a direct NO versus another excuse.

There are the predictable myriad of comments ranging from “How could she?” to “What’s wrong with asking? Just say no.” One of my favorite comments is, “If you need an excuse, tell her you’re going out of town. If you need an honest excuse, go out of town.” Who actually goes out of town to avoid saying no?

Until one reader leaves this comment:

This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.

Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signaling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.

As you read through the responses to this question, you can easily see who the Guess and the Ask commenters are. It’s an interesting exercise.

Mic drop.

The concept of Ask Culture and Guess Culture really struck a chord with me.

I have spent the vast majority of my life as a Guess. As a teenager, I very rarely conflicted with anyone, because I avoided all conversations that might result in a no or any other kind of conflict. My parents called me the “easy child.” Other parents praised them for my obedience. I lived with a low level of very well-concealed anxiety that had me taking prescription medications to calm my stomach for a period of time. Everyone blamed school and stress.

In hindsight though, in the context of this comment, I believe that a fair share of that internalized stress was a fear of risk. A fear of the unknown, of failure, of a NO.

My father used to say, “What’s the harm in trying? The worst that can happen is they say no.” And logically, I knew it was truth. But emotionally, it was terrifying.

The commenter is right. The farther I wandered from home, the more I was forced to learn to interact as an Ask, but it is a conscious decision every time. In my heart of hearts, I’d really rather wait until the answer is 99% Yes before we talk about it. The only real exception is when advocating for others. Somehow asking is easier when it doesn’t feel selfish, right?

As a parent, I’m with my dad. I want my kids to ask fearlessly and not to dwell on the No’s when they happen. I want every question to be valid and heard, even when it doesn’t produce the desired result. And even then, the balance between bulldozer and fearless self-advocate is essential. I don’t really want kids who ask for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. Ask respectfully, but ask away!

So moving forward with this new awareness of the two ways to view the world, I’m hoping to be more intentional about fostering an Ask Culture in my home, by validating and honoring requests, even when the answer is No. As a Guess though, I’m suddenly aware of what I’m modeling. Am I being overly cautious or am I just being polite?

What about your experience and Culture? Are you an Ask or a Guess? Is your spouse the same? Are your kids the same? How does it affect your household interactions? How does it affect your teens in school?

Tell me in the comments. I’m fascinated and I want to hear more! 

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Assistant

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind.