Citizenship & Community

Citizenship & Community

Citizenship.  For some, the word invokes images of Boy Scouts saying the pledge of allegiance or students volunteering at the library.   Most of us would define the word by a reference to service of some kind.  Many of us older adults mourn the loss of citizenship among our students.   Many think of citizenship as a product of a bygone era, no longer possible or practical among our digital generation of teens.

My son has been learning about citizenship in his martial arts class.  In each class, there is a simple lesson geared toward the 3 to 5 year-old students about picking up trash, saying hi to a new student in class, helping an elderly person who lives in your neighborhood, opening doors for others, etc.

As I listened to his instructor, I realized that while the stated character trait was citizenship, it was ultimately about community:  Who do you know? Who can you serve? Who do you need to add to your community?

Our youth need community as much as ever.  Too often, we get caught up in thinking that adolescence is about moving away from the family and friends a child has always known. In reality, adolescence is about forming identity within your own developing community – a new community that both includes and extends beyond the community you grew up knowing.  As adults working with teens, do we point our youth in the direction of where they could find community and a place to serve with their newly developing identities and gifts?

I have found that service, or citizenship, becomes a natural and organic outgrowth of people who have a place to belong.

A few ideas to help guide your teens as they seek to develop their own community:

  1. Create a community of adults that your child can talk to or spend time around. They can be all different ages and life stages, but they need to be a safe place where they are welcome, and loved, and can receive help and advice.
  2. Help youth identify their passion. Tell them what they are good at. Tell them what you see in them.  Encourage them to try out art, or music, or sports, or writing until they find their niche.
  3. Help teens find a place to serve. What are his/her interests? What do they want to explore? Who do they want to be around more? This could be in the context of a local non-profit or serving at a church. It could be a club/community group geared toward their interest. Community is built through service.
  4. Develop relationships with people from various cultures, religious backgrounds, and political belief systems. This allows the teens in your life to see that different people with different life experiences can all be at the same table.

 

Like with adults, community in adolescence doesn’t happen naturally. It takes work and showing up – something we as adults still need help our students with each day. But the benefits are worth it.  Youth who are plugged into a community, and who are serving there, have more opportunities to become successful, do better in school, and are more likely to believe that someone will be there for them if they need it.

Citizenship and Community are intertwined. How can you help the teen in your life find their place to live and serve?

Beth Nichols is Teen Life’s Program Director. With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, her perspective is invaluable.
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.
The Unexpected of a Traumatic Injury with Tyson Dever

The Unexpected of a Traumatic Injury with Tyson Dever

In this episode of this series, we are talking to Tyson Dever, author of Trauma is a Team Sport, about life after the unexpected happens. As a young adult, Tyson’s life was forever changed after a distracted driver of a fully-loaded cement truck hit his car. This car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and changed any plans he had for the future. However, in the midst of this unexpected tragedy comes hope and the fulfillment of lifelong dreams.

Join our conversation with Tyson Dever and his co-author, Sarah Paulk, as we talk about tragedy, recovery, motivation, and the will to thrive.

If you have experienced an injury or traumatic event, or are walking through life with a teen who has a similar experience, this is the podcast for you! We invite you to join our conversation with Tyson Dever.

 

 

Listen & Subscribe:  iTunes | Google Play | RSS

Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

On March 11, 2005, Tyson Dever survived a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. On that day, Tyson lost his ability to walk and life as he knew it changed forever. What Tyson gained was a desire to inspire people to be determined in life and to live life completely. Today, Tyson lives independently, drives, fishes from his own bass boat, hunts using a rugged track chair and shares his message with audiences across the nation.

Sarah Paulk is a professional writer, editor and collaborative author. After graduating from Abilene Christian University in 2004, with a degree from the department of Journalism and Mass Communication, she became a regular contributor to nationally distributed magazines, and has been featured in supplements to The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Sarah lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband, Brock, and their two children.

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!
Some Encouragement for Educators

Some Encouragement for Educators

We, at Teen Life, love the local school. Over my six years with the organization, I’ve been on what feels like hundreds of school campuses and interacted with the women and men who create these learning environments. They have a hard job and it seems like everything is changing – always! Whether it’s new students, students leaving, policy changes, administration changes, shifts in educational standards – whatever it is – our educators exist in a dynamic work environment. Literally it’s something new every day.

And for those tasked with the social/emotional health of students, things can become more complicated. In order for a child to learn, they need to have basic needs met, and one of those is safety. We sometimes view safety as shelter from physical harm, but it absolutely stretches into emotional and social safety. A child needs to know they will be supported and given the things they need in order to engage in any kind of learning process. Those counselors and interventionists are tasked with a big job – especially considering the pressures put on them to keep struggling kids in their classrooms.

As another summer looms large, let us remember the rest and rejuvenation ahead for our educators. The rigors of a school calendar can be draining and push people to the limit. In our religious tradition, we find the practice of Sabbath on a weekly basis to create intentional time to rest, rejuvenate, worship, and play. In the scriptures, we find examples of longer sabbaths where the people took a rest from their work for extended periods in order to let their communities rest.

The summer break was originally put in place to allow families to have their kids home on the farm for harvest, now it is just a way of life. But I believe it allows for a natural rest cycle to happen not only for the students, but for educators as well.

So if you are an educator reading this – take advantage of this time! Here are a few things to think about:

  • Make a plan for your rest. Yeah, I know that seems counter-intuitive, but there is something about having some goals set to make you a better person on the other end of the break. What books do you want to read? Where do you want to go? What projects have been pushed aside? What Netflix needs to be consumed?
  • Do you need to say “no” to anything this summer? Are other people trying to take time away from your break? Obviously say “yes” to the important things, but depending on what you need, you might have to say “no” every now and then.
  • Ask yourself, “How do I want to be better after this break?” Do you want to create a new habit? Learn more about something new? Achieve a goal? Write that down and put it somewhere that you will see it.
  • Stay off social media. Not much else to say here.

 

Educators – you have earned the break. Thank you for loving our kids and pouring so much into their development. Thank you for creating welcoming environments to an ever-diverse student body. Thank you for dealing with difficult parents, the bureaucracy of public schools, and the politics of this day and age.

Teen Life loves our local school friends! We will see you in August!

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s CEO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
How Aware Are You?

How Aware Are You?

Recently my husband and I were watching Brain Games on Netflix. The episode we were watching was called “Focus Pocus”, and it was about attention. It gave several tests for viewers such as counting the number of passes in a scene and watching a pickpocket in action before selecting him out of a lineup. Despite considering myself someone who pays attention to details and despite knowing I was playing a brain game, I was amazed at all the things I missed. It led me to contemplate what am I missing in other people, and even what am I missing in myself.

Then, I heard a presenter speak on Mindful Awareness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines “Mindful Awareness” as:

Paying attention; on purpose; in the present moment; while being non-judgmental.

Sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. Listening isn’t intuitive. It’s something we talk about in our Teen Life Facilitator Training. Many of us aren’t even aware of how poorly we listen.

To get a better idea of how mindful you are as a listener, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How often are you solving a problem before the person talking to you has finished telling you the problem?
  2. How often do you catch yourself planning your next words and missing the end of a conversation?
  3. How often do you steer a conversation to or away from a topic?
  4. How often are you “fine” until that one sensitive topic gets mentioned?

During the presentation, it also discussed how our awareness of our own thoughts, feelings, and situations impacts our ability to pay attention to others.

A few self-awareness questions to consider:

  1. What do I bring to this situation/conversation from my own personal story?
  2. Has anything taken place recently that might be influencing this situation/my decision making?
  3. What is going on just below the surface that might result in a negative outcome in this discussion?
  4. Am I taking the time to meet my own needs in order to be available to meet the needs of others?

Having “Mindful Awareness” is not easy and takes practice, especially when working with teens. It requires stopping, taking a few deep breaths, truly listening, observing the situation, being aware of your own feelings, and then proceeding toward the goal.

But it’s worth it! The more aware we are of ourselves, the bigger impact we can make when interacting with others. And we might even get better at life’s brain games while we are working on it!

Beth Nichols is Teen Life’s Program Manager. With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, her perspective is invaluable.