Why teens need caring adults

Why teens need caring adults

When I was fifteen, I was thriving as much as a nerdy, idiotic, high school sophomore could. At least on the outside. I was a talented trumpet player in a competitive band; I had a decent social circle; and I was involved in extracurricular activities. But the inside was a different story.

I was full of anxiety, doubt, and a professional at self-deprecation. Every day, I was carrying an extra load of problems on top of the normal daily sophomore struggles. I had some life stress that was daunting, but the scary thing to me is that I had loving parents and mentor teachers and it still wasn’t enough.

Enter my One.

Around the middle of the year, I was clearly off. An adult I had known for a while noticed and reached out to me. Pretty soon that became a weekly check-in. It was simple. It wasn’t anything extravagant, planned out, or complicated but it was huge for me.

Even though I was lucky to have positive influences in my life already, having someone show up for me did wonders for my well-being.

I think about how much I would have benefited from Teen Life Support Groups when I was in school. Parents and teachers are great mentors and do have a huge influence on teens today. There’s no denying that, but a member of the community showing up for a teen in need can be just as, if not more, impactful.

Teens with mentors show improvement in their attitudes and attendance at school. Studies have shown that high school graduation rates are higher, teens are less likely to drop out, they have enhanced self-esteem, improved interpersonal skills, and more.

A previous Big Brother, Big Sister study showed that teens with mentors are less likely to begin using drugs or alcohol. Specifically, 6.2 percent of youth with mentors initiated drug use compared to 11.4 percent of their peers without mentors, and 19.4 percent initiated alcohol use compared to 26.7 percent without mentors. This shows that they can gain important life skills to stay away from drugs (LoSciuto, Rajala, Townsend, & Taylor, 1996).

So how can you Be the One?

Teen Life makes it easy to take training that equips you to lead Support Groups on a campus near you. If you want information on how to get involved with schools, email me at tobin@teenlife.ngo.

We don’t all have time to be on a school campus during the day though.

You can also help by going here: teenlife.ngo/partner. Any one-time or monthly donation helps us connect teens in schools with trusted adults and peer support.

It can also be as simple as checking in with the teens in your life. Teens need to know that we care. Because no teen deserves to feel alone.

Tobin Hodges

Tobin Hodges

Program Director

Tobin graduated with a Bachelors of Music from Texas Tech University. A teacher’s kid twice over, he taught for 13 years before coming to Teen Life. His entire career has been centered around helping students and teens from all walks of life become the best version of themselves.

6 Soft Skills for Every Teen

6 Soft Skills for Every Teen

As the school year revs its engine, it’s easy to get caught up in the hard skills that students need to succeed academically, like STEAM and language skills. But especially after two years of quarantines and unorthodox school routines, it’s also important to hone in on soft skills that will help teens succeed socially.

Hard skills are measurable skills related to a specific task. Your ability to use a certain kind of software or diagnose a disease are hard skills. They will get you a job. Soft skills are a group of abilities that allow a person to be more productive in every aspect of their lives: skills like empathy, self-control, and grit. Soft skills will get you promoted.

Just like academic skills, soft skills, especially social ones, build on themselves over time. Don’t try to cram them all into one conversation. But look for opportunities to model and teach good habits like these that will point your teenager toward long-term success in school, in business, and in life.

Here are 6 lessons that every student can benefit from.

  • A handshake and a smile go a long way.
    I didn’t learn this until I went to college, where I was fortunately surrounded by others who had learned and showed me the way. I’m sure you’ve experienced this too, but I’m often surprised at how quickly a situation can go from awkward to fun when I offer my hand and introduce myself.
  • Limit the time you spend on people who bring more drama than joy to your life.
    It’s not that things don’t happen or that you shouldn’t support your friends. But if you find yourself constantly trying to figure out why your friend is mad at you or how you can make reparations, reconsider the amount of time you have to dedicate to that friend.
  • “You don’t make friends. You find friends.” Dr. Lisa Damour
    This one is two-fold. If you are busy finding friends, you don’t have as much time to worry about whether or not you’ll be left out. Also, find the people who inspire you. Hopefully, they will help you become your best version of yourself too.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s a valid step on the path to success.
    As a recovering perfectionist, I fail at this regularly. However, I vividly remember a conversation with my dad during the college selection process, which rendered me a nervous wreck, where he told me it was ok to choose one and decide later it wasn’t for me. I can’t tell you how much better that made me feel. Sometimes we all need a reminder.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
    More people are willing to help you than you think; everyone needs help sometimes! When we learn to ask for help, we build relationships and emotional support, too. It even makes it easier for others to ask for help when they see it modeled for them. It’s a win-win-win.
  • Make eating healthy and sleep priorities. There’s no substitute for good health.
    There are countless studies on this one. Lack of sleep hinders your ability to make good choices, remember things, drive a car, and so much more. You cannot replace sleep with caffeine, good hydration, exercise, or pills. There is no substitute.

Of course, there are many other soft skills that we hope your teen is learning! Time management, healthy screen habits, and managing emotions are a few that come to mind.

Be sure to tell us in the comments which soft skills you have benefitted the most from! Which ones are you teaching your teenagers?

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. 65: Talking with Teens about Hope

Ep. 65: Talking with Teens about Hope

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Summary:
Summer is a great time to start conversations with your teen! Use the extra time with them while they are home to get curious and ask open-ended questions.

To help, we’ve designed this series to be a quick, fun way to get everyone talking. Listen together with your teen, or by yourself. You might be surprised at how willing teenagers are to talk when they get started!

In episode 65, Chris and Kelly talk about hope as an indicator of mental health and ways to foster hope in your life.

Question:
How much hope do you have for the future?

Talk through these with your teen after this podcast ends!

  • What’s one good thing in your life right now?
  • How optimistic do you feel about the future?
  • Where would you like to get involved/volunteer?

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.

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.

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5 Ways to Combat The Self-Esteem Issue

5 Ways to Combat The Self-Esteem Issue

If you’ve been listening to the Teen Life Podcast this summer, then you know that I had a heartbreaking encounter with a group of middle school girls earlier this year.

When I asked, “How good do you feel about yourself?”, I was met with overwhelmingly negative responses. I listened as each girl told me stories about how their self-esteem had been damaged by hurtful words, unmet expectations, or unfair comparisons.

I’ll be honest. It is rare to get a group of 13 teenagers to completely agree, but when it came to self-esteem and body image, they were all on the same page.

When I did some research, I found that body image issues can start as young as the age of three. This makes me incredibly sad as someone who loves teenagers and is also parenting toddlers.

But is there anything we can do to help? We know that self-esteem and body image is impacted by so many factors. To name a few, a teenager’s view of themself can be framed by family, culture, social media, television or movies, ads, and comparison to others.

While I don’t believe that there is an easy fix, we MUST take more of an active role in combatting this self-esteem issue. Here are some tips that I think would be a great place to start!

Change the way we talk about eating and exercise.
Let’s normalize talking about eating healthy and getting stronger instead of dieting and losing weight. Teenagers often come across ads and media that talk about the pill that will help you drop 30 pounds, or the workout program that will help you get your summer body, or the detox smoothie that will get rid of bloating. Our teenagers are constantly told that they have to eat or move a certain way to improve the way they look.

But what if we taught our kids to eat balanced and get moving to simply feel good? What if we encouraged them to listen to what their bodies need instead of pushing a “clean plate” or “restrictive eating” mentality?

This summer, I challenge you to invite your teenagers into food and exercise conversations. Educate them on healthy and appropriate choices. Cook together and eat a variety of foods – sweets, vegetables, fruit, pizza, and everything in between!

Take the focus off appearance.
It is easy (and honestly, sometimes lazy) to give compliments on outside appearances.

“I love your hair!” “That’s a cute dress!” “Have you been working out?” “You look great!”

A stranger could come up with one of those statements! That is why it is so important to praise characteristics that have nothing to do with appearance. We need teenagers to know that they are more than how they look on the outside.

I want you to look for one way to praise your teenagers every day for a week. No cheating – make sure you are praising an internal characteristic they possess! It could be their bravery, kindness, humor, resiliency, generosity, or joy. Make them feel seen and loved, no matter how they look!

Consider a social media feed detox.
The Dove Self-Esteem Project recently found that 1 in 2 girls say idealized beauty content on social media causes low self-esteem. That is 50%!!

We all know that our teens spend a significant amount of time on social media every day. I would encourage you to watch this short film from Dove on the Toxic Influence of social media. They also have another short video guide to Detox Your Feed.

Look at the social media feeds of your teens. Have conversations about what they are seeing and if they think it is making them feel better or worse about themselves. So much of what we see on social media is filtered, photoshopped, and fake. Make sure teens know that they are comparing themselves to unrealistic (and often toxic) goals.

After you have gone through their feed together, come up with a plan for who they should consider unfollowing, muting, or blocking. The accounts they engage with the most will shape what they see more of, especially for apps like TikTok!

Practice what you preach.
When I was sitting in that group of middle school girls, it was really easy to be shocked by how they were talking about themselves, but don’t I do the same thing? If we want teenagers to change the way they think and talk about themselves, we have to be willing to do that hard work as well.

Pay attention to the way you talk about yourself and your relationship with your body. Focus on desiring more energy instead of just trying to fit into a smaller pair of jeans. Or put on that swimsuit and get in the pool. Take pictures and post them without adding a whole bunch of filters!

If we want our teenagers to stop comparing themselves and become less self-conscious, we need to lead the way!

Employ positive self-talk.
Along those lines, we all need to use better self-talk and encourage our teens to do the same. Maybe this could look like talking to yourself out loud around your teen or walking them through your thinking process.

It could look like this: “I am thinking about changing because I don’t love the way my arms look in this shirt. But I actually think I look really good in this outfit! I especially love the color, so I am going to rock this today!”

This also might look like confronting teens when you hear them talk negatively about themselves. Don’t dismiss their negativity, but take the time to have a conversation about what they are thinking and feeling! Not only does this interrupt that thought process for them, but it also shows that you see them and care.

Do you think these tips would help you or your teen? Self-esteem is vital for our teens to thrive and appreciate themselves for who they are – no changes needed! Sign me up for a world full of confident and brave teenagers!

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.
Ep. 56: Teen Virtues & Marvel

Ep. 56: Teen Virtues & Marvel

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Summary:
Join Chris and Karlie in one of their most important conversations to date. Learn this simple trick to harness the power of words to encourage and affirm teens. You’ll also love this episode’s deep dive into the world of Marvel, parental warnings and great takeaways.

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. 53: Gratitude & Teen Terms 3

Ep. 53: Gratitude & Teen Terms 3

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Summary:
If you’re feeling hopeless or even just a little down, gratitude is one of the best antidotes. Chris and Karlie talk about guiding teens to be thankful for the little things that are going right and the incredible benefits that gratefulness brings.

They also dive into some teen terms you might be hearing or confused about and how to raise capable teenagers using the “funnel theory”.

It’s an episode full of really practical information and tips that will leave you more empowered and maybe even a little more hopeful!

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.

Follow Us