The Place Where No-One is Turned Away

The Place Where No-One is Turned Away

Working for Teen Life the past seven years has afforded me the opportunity to walk the halls of many schools across our area. Every campus has a look and feel – even a smell! Some come equipped with the latest technology and new carpet while others seem to barely keep the lights on. These campuses are the epicenter of everything – education, culture, social life, development, relationships – all of it. Think about it – in our ever-fracturing society where everything is done online, the public school is the one place where ideas are exchanged and problems are solved – face to face.

What used to be done in houses of worship and other public spaces can really only be found in public schools. And the reason for this is why I am endlessly fascinated with public schools especially – there is no requirement for entry. Public schools have no financial, educational, socio-ethnic, or religious requirement for entry. Simply put – if you live within a certain boundary of a public school – you can go and learn!

To me it is kind of like our national park system. A long time ago, our nation’s leaders decided to reserve wide swaths of land, preventing anyone from exploiting or taking advantage of its natural resources. This would be a public space for all to enjoy nature without barriers to entry (save a daily fee, I guess).

You get to see nature in it’s most preserved state and know that you won’t see a shopping strip or oil rig. It will never be exploited for profit, and nature can just be enjoyed – by everyone.

Public schools in this way have to take everyone who passes through their doors. They have to accommodate all levels of learning and manage classrooms that are ever diversifying. Walking through the hallways and watching how the women and men work with their students is really a beautiful thing to watch.

For many students, the public school might be the only safe place they experience. For some, it is a shelter from abuse. For others, it represents a hot meal and badly needed resources. For others, access to compassionate adults who can advocate on their behalf.

This is a time of year where we shift back to the ebb and flow of the school day and calendar. Even those who do not have kids in school feel the effects of this time of year. We at Teen Life are so excited to start another year helping students on public school campuses across our area, and nationwide! Within the next few weeks across our nation, students head back to the classroom and our educators get back to work. Let us be looking for ways to support those who serve any and every student who come their way. It is a calling unlike any other.

Pray for our educators. Check in with them. Ask what they need. Provide it if you can. Support them. Advocate on their behalf.

School is back! Let’s lean into our local schools and make this year the best one possible!

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s CEO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
13 Reasons Why: The Role of Adults

13 Reasons Why: The Role of Adults

In this final episode of the Teen Life Podcast’s series on the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, the Teen Life staff is talking about the role of adults in teenagers’ lives. Adults have a great responsibility when it comes to raising and encouraging teenagers. We wanted to take a look at the adult relationships in 13 Reasons Why, both good and bad, to discuss what we can learn.

The Teen Life Podcast wants to equip adults to better help teenagers, and this conversation is a great resource! In this episode, we are talking about parents, counselors, school, divorce, and the reason teenagers don’t always trust adults.

Are you an adult connected to a teen? Are you unsure of what to say or how to help? Join our conversation about the role of adults – we can be an incredible resource for our students!

 

Listen & Subscribe:  iTunes | Google Play | RSS

Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Beth Nichols graduated in 2003 with a degree in Social Work from Abilene Christian University. She completed her Masters Degree, also in Social Work, from the University of Tennessee in 2004. Beth previously worked as the Program Manager for Communities in Schools of the the Heart of Texas and is now the Program Director for Teen Life. She believes teens are learning to navigate the world in a unique way, and is excited to have the opportunity to work with students and their families.

Chris Robey is the CEO of Teen Life. Earlier in his career while working as a youth minister, Chris earned a Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University to better equip his work with teenagers and families. Chris’ career and educational opportunities have exposed him to teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. Follow him on Twitter!

Karlie Duke is Teen Life’s Marketing & Development Director, joining Teen Life after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications and a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 6 years and is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

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!
3 Ways to Follow Through

3 Ways to Follow Through

Saying nice things to teenagers is easy…following through is the hard part!

How are you doing?

We should get lunch sometime.

I want to hear about ____ next time I see you!

I am praying for you.

What can I do for you?

How many times have you said or asked a teen something similar? How many times do you actually follow up and go to lunch? Do you ask them about that conversation a few months down the road? Do you remember that anniversary or date that means something to them?

Recently I went to lunch with a teen who talked about the power of following through. In the midst of loss, she needed people who would actually show up. Who would stop right there and pray for her. Who would send follow-up texts telling her they were thinking of her. Who would ask about lunch and make it happen. She said the nice things people said meant nothing if they weren’t backed by actions.

I have a confession. I am guilty of this. I have relationships with many students that I counseled at camp, volunteered with, or have been invested in for years. When they come back from college, I tell them we should get lunch. When they graduate high school, I say I want to hear about their plans. I tell them to call or text me if they need anything. In theory, I am saying and doing all the right things, but do I really expect that teen to call me when they get overwhelmed the first week of school or when they get in a bad situation with friends? Have I shown that I am worth calling? Or have I only shown that I can say nice things but am too busy to check in when it counts?

Ouch.

Writing that hurts. Maybe it even hurts for you to read?

But we can change that! We can be better, more supportive, and more invested. Here are three easy ways to follow through and mean it.

 

Be specific.

If you are going to ask a question, ask if you can do something specific. Instead of, “How can I help?”, ask things like, “Can I take you to lunch next week?” “Can I drive you to your next counseling appointment?” “Can I visit the grave of your loved one with you?” “Can I bring you a Sonic drink during your next shift at work?”

Let them know what you will do and when you will do it. If they aren’t ready for your help yet, they will let you know, but they will also know that you care and that you are trying.

 

Follow through in the moment.

Similar to the previous point, instead of setting some hypothetical lunch date in the future, get out your calendar and find a day that will work. If you are telling a teen that you will be praying for them, stop right there and pray for them before they leave. When texting a teen about something that is going on, ask if you can call right then instead of putting off the conversation.

We all get busy – teens and adults alike. Instead of using busyness as an excuse, get in the habit of only making promises that you will actively schedule time for when you make the commitment.

 

Check in down the road.

So you went to lunch. You prayed. You asked the right questions, and showed up at the right time. You are awesome! But more than showing up in the moment, we have to be willing to follow up down the road.

A year after their friend died, check in and let them know you are thinking of them. If a parent died, ask if you can come over on a birthday, Mother’s/Father’s Day, or ask if they need someone to take pictures before prom or go dorm room shopping. If they mentioned that they are seeking counseling, ask how that is going. Do they feel like it is helping? What have they learned? If you promised to pray for them, tell them that you are! Ask if the request has changed and how you can better pray for them moving forward.

 

Lately, I have had several conversations with people who said that when they were at their lowest, they don’t remember the words that were said, they remember the people who showed up. Who sent flowers. Who stepped in the gap when they knew a day or occasion would be particularly hard. Who sat beside them and just let them question, cry, or celebrate.

Teenagers need you to show up, not have all the right answers. We can do that! It might take a shift in our thinking, but let’s seek to be as intentional with our actions as we are with our words.

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
13 Reasons Why: Relationships

13 Reasons Why: Relationships

 

In this episode of the Teen Life Podcast’s series on the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, the Teen Life staff is talking about teen relationships. Relationships are a critical part of a teenager’s life, and for this episode, we are focusing on romantic and friendship relationships between the characters in 13 Reasons Why.

The Teen Life Podcast wants to shine a light on the different relationships teenagers might experience and offer some insight into the importance of healthy relationships. In this episode, we are talking about love triangles, loss of virginity, dating relationships, friendships, and isolation vs. community.

Is your teenager trying to navigate new relationships? Are you unsure of what they are going through? Join our conversation about teen relationships and share this with a friend who could also benefit!

 

Listen & Subscribe:  iTunes | Google Play | RSS

Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Beth Nichols graduated in 2003 with a degree in Social Work from Abilene Christian University. She completed her Masters Degree, also in Social Work, from the University of Tennessee in 2004. Beth previously worked as the Program Manager for Communities in Schools of the the Heart of Texas and is now the Program Director for Teen Life. She believes teens are learning to navigate the world in a unique way, and is excited to have the opportunity to work with students and their families.

Chris Robey is the CEO of Teen Life. Earlier in his career while working as a youth minister, Chris earned a Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University to better equip his work with teenagers and families. Chris’ career and educational opportunities have exposed him to teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. Follow him on Twitter!

Karlie Duke is Teen Life’s Marketing & Development Director, joining Teen Life after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications and a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 6 years and is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

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!
Going Beyond “Good Job”: How to Praise Teens

Going Beyond “Good Job”: How to Praise Teens

Have you ever experienced a scenario like this:

You’re talking to a teen and they tell you about a situation where they had to make a choice. A friend was pressuring them to do something wrong, something they have always done. In the past, this teen would have chosen to go along with their friend, to give in to the pressure to do something they know is wrong. This time though, they chose to do the right thing. They tell you that they ignored their friend all weekend and chose to stay home. The teen chose to not participate in the wrong-doing.

You say something like, “That was a great choice!” The teen looks at you, shrugs off your comment and moves on.

This teen just revealed a life changing moment for them and they get a “great job”. We think we just praised them for doing the right thing when in reality, a moment was missed to truly dig deep and offer meaningful praise to a teen who is struggling. The teen doesn’t feel heard or like they made the right choice. They feel like a child that got a pat on the back.

This scene is played out often, and I have come to learn that these are moments where a lot of us fail. It is sometimes too easy to give a standard response, to simply say “great job” with a pat on the back.  While this may feel good to say, it doesn’t necessarily hold any weight when it comes to developing a trusting relationship. These placating statements we are guilty of using in everyday life are what causes the eye-rolls, the shrug offs, and can shut down further communication because they are meaningless.

True praise for teens, especially those who are in tough situations, requires more heart. The word ‘praise’ actually comes from Middle English meaning “attach value to”. If praise is meant to attach value to, then we need to work on our approach to praising. We need to dig deeper into using meaningful praise in order to ensure that our teens know they have value. This means using words to ensure that teens feel heard, that they know they did the right thing, and the qualities they possess to continue doing the right thing.

In the scenario above, I have experienced the difference that occurs when I have used this deeper approach to praise. I point out how they made a tough decision to move beyond what they have always done. I make my case by detailing the qualities they exhibited such as being responsible, setting an example, and made a brave choice. The responses from teens when they are given this praise is more positive. They might not have anything to say, they may even respond shyly if they have never experienced someone going beyond “good job” in their lives but you will see the change. There is a light that shines when someone feels valued.

For teens that rarely or never experience positive interactions with adults, changing our tune on praise helps them see that they have worth. Attaching value to their actions changes the tone of conversations and encourages teens to continue to make positive choices. They learn that they have value that is seen by someone in their lives who wants better for them. I challenge each of you to move beyond “good job” and search for ways to attach value to the teens in your life.

Shelbie Fowler is currently a volunteer for Teen Life and has her Masters in Family Studies. She is passionate about being an advocate for family life education in order to grow families stronger.
Repost: What To Do After “13 Reasons Why”

Repost: What To Do After “13 Reasons Why”

*This is the last in a series of three blog posts that we released Summer 2017 regarding season one of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” Subscribe to the Teen Life Podcast to catch our current podcast series breaking down season two of the series. This is a great place to start though!

Part 1 – The Good of “13 Reasons Why”

Part 2 – The Ugly of “13 Reasons Why”

Past 3 – What To Do After “13 Reasons Why”

 


 

Here’s the truth. 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original show. It is entertainment. People have ranted and raved about whether it should or should not be out there. Well, all that attention means a second season is coming. This is a testament that any press is good press. It brought a lot of attention but to what end? I hope it promoted meaningful conversation between teens and adults, and I trust that this week we have encouraged more good discussion. That is why we wanted to end our blog series with this particular post.

One thing I felt was missing from the whole show was examples of people seeking out help and succeeding. Why is that? Is it that it would have taken away from the entertainment value? I don’t believe so. I think they missed a major opportunity to model for teenagers how to seek out helpful resources. The direction to a website in the opening of each episode was nice, but all that is there are crisis hotlines and links to click further and try to figure out how to get help. What would have been more effective, I believe, is showing in every episode some examples of someone successfully seeking and receiving help.

With that as the background for this post, the goal here is to give you, the reader, ideas and some direct resources to help a teen in the real world who is struggling. This should not be seen as a replacement for continued training or adhering to any law directing you how to respond. But rather, this post could be a reference tool to get you to the resources needed to be ready and have on hand if the time arises. Though, truth be told, all of us hope we never have to use these resources.

First, just the fact that there is a show about suicide is enough to bring up the discussion about such a serious topic. You don’t have to watch the show for that conversation to start. You could watch any number of shows if you need a starting place, but none of those are going to have the answers. Only an open and honest conversation about what your student is facing and needs will meet the desire for discussion that is there. So take the opportunity. Ask questions and invite conversation, then listen.

Second, look locally at what is available. In the Fort Worth area, there is a Suicide Awareness Coalition. Attending these monthly meetings has kept the conversation in front of me and our team and helped us not lose sight of the seriousness of the situation. In addition, there are often classes, seminars, or workshops you are able to attend. These are usually geared toward licensed professionals but can be attended by anyone. I have gained a lot of helpful connections and tools this way.

Third, personally check in on the resources. Call the national hotline yourself. Time how long the wait is. Make note of the prompts and be prepared to communicate those to someone you might need to share that resource with. Visit local organizations that offer services. Ask specific questions related to the things teens you work with have brought up. It is very helpful for you to simply be able to say, “I visited this place and the people there really want to help.” This is so helpful because many times people in a severely depressed state don’t believe anyone wants to help them, and they need a lot of reassurance from someone they trust. You want to be confident in the resources you are suggesting if you ever need to be that person.

Fourth, once you are equipped with information and resources, you will feel prepared if a situation happens. This happened for me just a few months ago. I had a friend call, and he was actively suicidal. I found this out by asking pointed questions like, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” and “Do you have a plan?” When the answer to these questions were both, “Yes!” We called the local crisis line together. I was so glad I had the number in my phone. They gave us some options of places to go, he picked one, and I took him there. I stayed for about 4 hours. Yes it took time, but I was so glad I stayed until he got medical attention and checked into a program to get help. I am convinced he would have killed himself if I had not been there.

Fifth, the last scenario you want to be prepared for is what to do if a teen you know does kill themselves or if a friend of theirs does. This is where the above resources come in. They will help you be prepared to reach out or be able to listen and ask helpful questions. Again, here locally there is a resource called LOSS Team. This is a volunteer led group that is available to survivors of suicide. They are specifically trained and equipped to help handle a loss. If you don’t have one in your community, reach out to local counseling services for groups or to a local church that may offer a resource. As with all grief, everyone handles a loss to suicide differently. It is important to know that grieving a suicide is different than other grief though. Knowing this is the important piece. Finding a resource specific to people who have lost someone to suicide is the ideal situation.

To be clear, what you are doing here is not equipping yourself to be the professional, long-term solution to help someone that is thinking about suicide. You are educating yourself to be a first line of defense, working in a preventative way to significantly reduce the number of students who end up in a place where they feel so hopeless they don’t know where to turn when they have suicidal thoughts. That’s right I said “when.” The truth is many of us, including myself, have thoughts of suicide at one time or another. The problem comes when we believe the lie that we are the only one, and that means we have no hope of recovery. Instead, we need someone like you to come alongside us and walk with us through that dark place until we get back to where we can find the reason for living again.

What is missing? What other resources are you aware of that can make a huge difference in helping teenagers as they navigate stress, anxiety and depression? Their struggle, or yours, does not ever neeed to end in suicide. Let’s pull together and raise awareness to end suicide all together. 

Ricky Lewis is Teen Life’s Founder. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.