5 Areas of Focus for Social Distancing

5 Areas of Focus for Social Distancing

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Here we are…still social distancing! In this podcast episode, Chris and Karlie discuss 5 different areas of focus that can help shape this unique time of social distancing. They will talk about the importance of…

    • Physical movement
    • Mindful moments
    • Self-care
    • Tech breaks
    • Generosity

It is so vital that you take care of yourself and encourage teenagers to do the same. We might have to change our expectations, and that is OKAY. But let’s make the best of this time of social distancing due to COVID-19! While we hope that life can return to “normal” soon, we want to continue to equip teenagers to grow, learn, and thrive today while also maintaining hope for the future.

 

Resources:
In this interview, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:
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 8 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!
The Trauma of No School

The Trauma of No School

It’s been 8 weeks. Eight weeks since life felt “normal.” Eight weeks since my kids went to school, since my husband and I have been out for a date, since I worked in the same location as my co-workers. Eight weeks filled with fun memories with my husband and kids. Eight weeks filled with hard decisions, fighting siblings, and days spent trying to spin all of the plates. Eight weeks filled with joy and guilt and frustration all mixed together. While eight weeks seems so long, in many ways, I also know that this too will pass. That the hard days will give way to better days.

However, for many students, the last eight weeks have looked very different than for my family and me. Truthfully, traumatic might be a better word to describe it.

I read an NPR article this past week entitled Closed Schools Are Creating More Trauma For Students. This article put into words what so many of us at Teen Life and so many of our school partners are thinking and saying. Closing schools is traumatic for so many of the students that we as facilitators at Teen Life interact with each week. For many of our students, school is one of the few places they feel safe and seen. One of the few places where there is a caring adult who is willing to help when life seems overwhelming. A place where someone is available to help process feelings in contrast to a place where students can be easily triggered.

Between closed schools, social isolation, food scarcity and parental unemployment, the coronavirus pandemic has so destabilized kids’ support systems that the result, counselors say, is genuinely traumatic.

Cory Turner

Closed Schools Are Creating More Trauma For Students (NPR)

Schools provide much needed “check-ins” for students of all ages. Cook Children’s recently reported that they had seen 6 cases of severe child abuse in one week as the stay at home order began, when they typically see that many cases over the span of a month.

So, with all of this potential trauma, what do we do now? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Maintain some level of human connection – Zoom calls, phone calls, FaceTime, MarcoPolo – whatever works for you. This applies to adults and students alike.
  2. Check in with the students you know. Text, call, interact on socials. If you are a parent, take a few extra minutes to talk about what concerns your child has and what they wish for or miss the most.
  3. Normalize the feelings. It’s normal and appropriate to be frustrated or sad or mad. Or to be all of those at once. Help the students you live with and interact with remember that as Franciene Sabens states in the NPR article: “It’s OK to not be OK. I mean, most of the world is not OK right now.”
  4. Lastly, start planning for how to transition back to school, even when that seems an eternity away. Students will still be figuring out what happens next and how has life changed after many months away from “normal.”

“School leaders should right now be planning for the future, asking how they can best support students when they come back to school, Laura Ross, [a middle school counselor in Lawrenceville, Ga] says, “making sure that we’re prepared to deal with some of those feelings that are going to increase — of anxiousness, of grief, of that disconnect that they had for so long.”

Cory Turner

Closed Schools Are Creating More Trauma For Students (NPR)

I cannot tell you if or when life will look like it did before COVID-19. However, we at Teen Life hope that you are able to continue to serve the students in your lives for the next 8 weeks, 8 months, or 8 years despite the trauma experienced and the inevitable challenges that lay ahead today and in the future.

Beth Nichols

Beth Nichols

Program Director

With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, Beth’s perspective is invaluable. She has had the opportunity in both her personal and professional life to encounter youth from a variety of situations. 

Searching for Strengths and Solutions

Searching for Strengths and Solutions

 

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Join Chris and Karlie as they talk about Teen Life’s philosophy for working with teenagers! With a quick intro to Solution-Focused Therapy, Chris and Karlie discuss the importance of helping teenagers find practical solutions while also pointing out the strengths and resources they already possess.

In this episode, Chris and Karlie will give some practical tips for how you can use solution-focused tools and questions to interact with the teens in your life. By using scaling, fist-to-five, and good questions, you can help teenagers focus on how they can make a positive change in the future. This discussion is full of practical tips that can help you empower teenagers this week. Join the conversation and let’s start assuming the best about teenagers!

 

Resources:

In this interview, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:
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 8 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 Help Prevent Suicide

3 Ways to Help Prevent Suicide

 useRecently, I learned of a death by suicide by a prominent pastor – on the eve of National Suicide Awareness Day of all days. It was especially tragic because he was quite vocal about the topic from his writings and the pulpit, even going so far as to establish a non-profit promoting mental health and suicide prevention. He struggled quite publicly with his own depression and mental health and tried to keep the topic front-and-center, especially on social media. 

Yet, he still died by suicide. 

This was a tough one as I have a lot of friends in the clergy and have some unique insight into the stressors they face daily. I can understand the pressures that might bring someone to contemplate such a horrible outcome. But the question is, how does someone who is so vocal to the point of founding a non-profit still succumb to suicide? Is it just inevitable? Is it even preventable? 

After tragedies like this one and so many other high-profile suicides the common refrain is to urge people to ask for help or call the national suicide prevention hotline. These are definitely worthy actions to encourage. Yet, my guess is those who died by suicide likely gave that same advice at some point. 

So, are we missing something here? 

First of all, like most tragedies, suicide is not 100% preventable. Despite our best efforts, those in extreme darkness will choose this outcome no matter the best intentions of those who love them. Yet as those who love students, it would be good for us to understand what might drive someone to take their life.

Numerous studies have shown the actual act of taking one’s life comes by impulse more than we think. Often times we perceive suicide as being planned out meticulously like in “13 Reason’s Why”. Yet as survivors of suicide are interviewed, almost half in some cases report the attempt coming after a crisis less than 24 hours before. In fact, 1 in 4 survivors reported their suicide attempt within 10 minutes of the impulse!

Often these suicide attempts are aided by substance use and deteriorating mental health as well. But the bottom line is this – even though some suicides are long planned out, many more are an act of impulse in the immediate aftermath of a personal crisis!

So, as we talk about suicide, we also need to talk honestly about what is going on with the victim and what we can do to help. We need to understand that suicide can be (but not always) prevented by actual intervention on behalf of the one doing the outcry. While we can encourage the potential victim of suicide to act (i.e. ask for help, call a hotline), there are some tangible things we can do as helpers to intervene. 

• If you suspect someone might be contemplating suicide – ASK THEM. You won’t be putting any ideas into their head that are not already there.
• Never let someone you suspect is suicidal to be alone. Keep doors open and conversations ongoing.
• Remove any means that could complete suicide. Remove any guns, ammo, pills, rope, sharp objects, or anything that the potential victim could  use to inflict self-harm.

Why?
Because 90% of suicide survivors do not make another attempt! When we as helpers take basic actions like being present, asking good questions, and recognizing the impulsivity of suicide, we can save lives! 

It is time we recognize our roles as helpers to those who are genuinely struggling to find their own voice. We have a role to play for our family and friends who have lost hope. To step into this role demands courage and action. 

I highly encourage you to follow some of the research at Means Matter – a study out of Harvard working through the question of impulsivity and the means of suicide. This work has been formative for me as a helper of students to understand more tangible ways to help those contemplating suicide.

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.

ACEs

ACEs

ACE –

Does that mean anything to you? For some it might conjure up the lyrics of an old George Straight song that says, “You’ve got to have an ace in the hole.” For others it brings images of poker games and winning hands. For others, names of all-star professional baseball pitchers. For others, the experience of serving in tennis and never getting a volley back. Maybe for you, it’s the terminology for someone who is always seemingly ahead – “He’s holding all the aces.”

But how many of you saw ACE and thought about difficult childhood experiences? I’m guessing not very many of you. This past week I had the opportunity to sit in a training which discussed trauma informed care. As part of that discussion, the ACEs were mentioned.

So, what are the ACEs?

ACEs in this context stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. These are experiences that occur before the age of 18 that have a dramatic impact on how we live, function, and make decisions as an adult. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study began in the mid-1990s and continued through 2015 and has consistently shown the impact of childhood experiences on adult functioning. Let’s take a minute to look at what was studied and the major findings.

The ACE Study looked at the occurrence of 10 major childhood experiences, which are typically divided into 3 main categories.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean

 

What It Said 

According to the CDC, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are common. So common that almost 2/3 of participants reported at least one ACE, and more than 20% reported three or more ACEs. – Pause for a minute – that is statistically the majority of people that you meet every day. That is 1 in 5 who have had multiple significant experiences – most of which we don’t like to talk about.

So what does that mean? Per the CDC, as the number of ACEs increases, so does likelihood of the risk for the following:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Depression
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Poor work performance
  • Financial stress
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy
  • Risk for sexual violence
  • Poor academic achievement

 

It covers it all – health problems, increased risky behaviors and a decreased life potential. It also leads to an increase likelihood of premature death.

Look at the list above again and let’s talk about students – especially high school students. Often, we as parents, youth workers, teachers, and Teen Life Facilitators spend a great deal of time talking about poor grades, teenage pregnancy, suicide attempts, self-injury behaviors, depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use/abuse. But do we stop to take the time to think about what experiences might have contributed to these decisions? When we are feeling frustrated, do we see the behavior as defiance or a coping skill?

So now that we know what the ACEs are and what the research shows, what in the world do we do?

Build relationships.

According to Dr. Karyn Purvis, “The child with a history of loss, trauma, or abuse has no hope of healing without a nurturing relationship.” The presence of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships can greatly increase resiliency among children and youth who have experienced multiple ACEs.

Are you willing to look past the hard choices, to look past the mistakes, in order to see the experiences that have impacted the students in our lives? And when you do, are you willing to stick it out to connect and empower youth to overcome?

 

***For More Information about The CDC ACE Study can be found here and here. More information about the ACEs in general can be found here. More information about Dr. Karyn Purvis and her Trust Based Relational Intervention can be found here.

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.
4 Ways to Finish with Success

4 Ways to Finish with Success

At the end of 2018, our team decided to focus on finishing well by reading Jon Acuff‘s book, Finish. It was a great book to end the year with, but as I was reading, I couldn’t help but wish I had these tools at the beginning of 2018. My goals were already set, completed, or abandoned by that point. But the great thing about goals is that you don’t need a new year to start (even though it is pretty handy that 2019 just started).

I’ll be honest – I rarely finish books like this. But with a title like Finish, I knew this was one that would bother me if it stayed on my bedside table without getting read. Thanks to Jon’s ideas, I was able to read some parts and audiobook other parts without feeling like I was cheating – I simply finished and that felt great!

As Teen Life looks forward to 2019, we will be using many of the tips, tidbits, and tools from Jon’s book. While I will recommend that you pick up your own copy, here are 4 things that can help you get started as you set your own goals this year.

 

Take the Pressure Off

One of the first chapters in Finish is called “The Day After Perfect.” Man, this one hit me hard. It is easy to set a goal and excel at it for a few days, weeks, or maybe even months. But what happens when you mess up your perfect streak? How do you recover when you eat a pizza buffet instead of grilled chicken and spinach? How do you show your face at the gym again when its been a few weeks and you’ve lost your progress? It is so easy to slip into bad habits of staying up late, letting our houses get too messy, relying on our phone when we get bored, or focusing on the easy things at work instead of the important things.

Once we have a bad day, our goal is easy to abandon. Forget the new shoes you bought, the fancy planner, or that expensive gym membership – one mistake can derail progress, and that is wrong!

So instead, take the pressure off. Give up the idea that you are going to be perfect this year. Expect the imperfections instead of quitting when you meet them. In this chapter, Jon Acuff writes, “You will not be perfect, but do you know what’s even more important than perfection? … Moving forward imperfectly. Reject the idea that the day after perfect means you’ve failed. That’s just not true. You get to try again. Today, tomorrow, next week.”

 

Set Achievable Goals

Along with this idea of perfectionism comes the idea that a goal isn’t worth having if it isn’t the biggest and best. Who wants to lose 5 pounds when you could drop 30? It sounds so much better to say you are training for a marathon instead of a 5K. No one wants to set foundational goals for business when doubling income or growing to a new state is more exciting. But it is incredibly defeating when you set a goal that is out of reach, so Acuff suggests that you “cut your goal in half”.

Just like we talked about before, if you set a goal that is too big, the perfectionist in you is going to quit. Often, we would rather quit than fail. It makes us feel better to say we gave that goal up before we had a chance to fall short. Jon suggests that we stack the odds by making our goals more attainable. He doesn’t say that we should do less work, only that we should set goals that are within reach so that we will be motivated to do more and actually finish. When you reach that attainable goal, you are more likely to keep going day after day, month after month. You will do more with smaller goals than a big goal that you gave up on!

So cut your goal in half or give yourself more time! Try to lose 5 pounds this month instead of 10 (that way if you lose 8, you’ll have exceeded your goal instead of failing). Give yourself a week to reorganize your entire house instead of only taking a weekend. Grow your current business before choosing to add a completely new product. By setting realistic goals, you will do more and finish!

 

Make it Fun

In his book, Acuff says, “Perfectionism believes that the harder something is, the more miserable something is, the better it is. The lie it tells you is: Fun doesn’t count.” Does anyone else identify with this lie? I hate to run. I don’t really care if it will help me get in shape, lose weight, or be healthier. It’s the worst, so I don’t do it. Maybe signing up for a marathon shouldn’t be my goal anytime soon…Instead, I need to set a goal that is fun for me – like signing up for a cycling class or meeting friends to walk (and talk) outside. Your goal does not have to make you miserable, and if it is something that you hate, you probably won’t push through the hard days and imperfections to finish.

We need to find new and inventive ways to make goals fun again! Maybe that means doing research for work in the form of an interesting podcast or audiobook while you are driving. Or maybe you find ways to reward progress for a goal that is inherently “not fun”. Plan a beach trip after you drop the weight or get on Facebook for 5 minutes after you’ve worked hard at your goal for an hour straight. It is not cheating to enjoy your goals – you just have to get a little creative!

 

Eliminate Distractions

Now that we have tackled some of the lies of perfectionism, we have to protect ourselves from the destruction of distraction. Sometimes these distractions are intentional, sometimes they seem important and validated, often they could wait until after you completed your goal. Honestly, I am not good at staying away from distractions. It is something I still struggle with, but now that I am aware of what I am doing, these distractions are easier to overcome.

Do you ever say, “Let me check my phone really quick…”, and then look up an hour later find yourself deep in the depths of “Best Dressed” pictures from the latest awards show? Or did you glance at Facebook only to stumble across pictures of that high school friend who you haven’t seen in years. Your phone (with its social media apps and addicting games) can be a slippery slope. Or do you ever start you work day with a big goal only to spend the first couple of hours cleaning out your email and unsubscribing from every spam newsletter? That is a distraction.

Many times I will reach for the easy thing over the important thing. Not that the easy task shouldn’t get done at some point, but often I use it as a distraction to keep myself busy so I don’t feel bad about not getting to the difficult, time-consuming task that has to come next. I love Jon Acuff’s suggestion that you should ask your spouse or a close friend what your distractions or “hiding places” are. Chances are, they know them even if you don’t realize they are there. Let’s make an effort to set aside distractions (even noble ones) to get our goals finished!

 

We talk about goals often in our Teen Life Support Groups. We encourage teenagers to set small goals that they can accomplish that week and then we continue to build on them week after week. We ask them what worked and what was hard. We give new ideas for how to tweak goals moving forward to have the most success. Why does this make sense for teenagers and not for us? Why can I give better advice to others and then struggle with my own goals on a weekly basis?

In 2019, I hope you will join me in finishing. I hope you will change your expectations, set small, fun goals that you can build on, and minimize distraction for success. We can do this. We can finish!

 

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.