Combating Fear in the Face of School Shootings

Combating Fear in the Face of School Shootings

Teenagers are pushed to face their fears and overcome them all the time. They fear failure, rejection, stress, the unknown, and so many other things. As adults, our job is to help them give voice to their fear and then figure out how they can find courage in the face of difficult times. But what happens when fear is deadly, random, and unpredictable? How do we respond to the understandable fear after a school shooting?

Fear cannot be ignored.

We see fear of bullies, failing a test, heights, being left, parent’s divorcing, humiliation, missing the shot, letting people down, getting sick. And now teenagers have to add the fear of getting attacked at school? We have to add the fear of our children not coming home at the end of the day?

It isn’t fair. It doesn’t make sense. But it is real and it is something that needs to be addressed.

While we do not have any answers for the tragedies that are taking place all over our country, here are a few ways that we can help combat fear.

 

Be ready for the crisis.

It is easy to react after a tragedy occurs. Once something horrible happens, we look for answers and start having conversations. But what  if we had already started these conversations? What if the ground work was already laid so that when something horrible happened, we were prepared?

It is important to talk to teenagers and kids about what is going on – in their school, city and country. They know something is wrong. They can read adults, and most have access to social media or the internet where they are probably getting more details than you would see on the evening news. We can’t avoid fear and difficult situations that happen across the country. So we need to start having conversations today. Develop a relationship with your student where you can have difficult conversations all the time. That will make these hard topics more manageable.

Here are a few tips to being ready for conversations:

  • Be shock proof: Remain calm when talking to your teens. Be genuine, but don’t let your own fear color the conversation.
  • Ask good questions: Resist the urge to lecture, but instead ask questions about what they have heard and how they are feeling.
  • Keep it appropriate: Conversations are important, but only if they are helpful. Don’t scare or over-share if your kids aren’t ready for it.
  • Be part of the solution: Get involved. Use the resources of schools and organizations, but don’t put all the responsibility on others.

 

Know your resources.

Speaking of being ready for a crisis…this is crucial! When something happens, you don’t have to walk through it by yourself – utilize the resources in your community, school and church. Maybe a resource is as simple as having another trusted adult on call if your teen would rather talk to someone outside of your house. Or be prepared if your child wants to talk to a counselor (whether it be their school counselor or another professional). Ask your church and school what resources are available – is there a series coming up that will address things like school shootings? Are support groups available on their campus? Is there an article or podcast that gives a different perspective?

There are so many resources available, and it will be incredibly helpful if you already know where to look first. Here are a few places we recommend:

  • Youth Specialties Blog: While these blogs are aimed at youth workers, they are a great resources to parents as well!
  • Teen Life: I may be a little biased, but Teen Life offers lots of great resources from our blog and podcast to Support Groups on school campuses.
  • Google: Earlier this week, someone asked us for an online resource after the Parkland shooting and by searching “how to have conversation with child about school shooting,” I found several great options!
  • Preventative Resources: Use resources like Michele Borba’s book or blog to talk about healthy things kids need to focus on. Start with this blog post!
  • Local Resources: Know what organizations are in your area! The Warm Place and Real Help For Real Life are two in Fort Worth but do some research around you.

 

Believe your kids.

It is so important to believe your kids, especially in times of fear and trial. I think sometimes we dismiss students as being dramatic or exaggerating. While teens can be dramatic, and they can exaggerate some details, is it worth not believing them if they are being completely truthful?

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, several students said that they weren’t surprised by the identity of the shooter. They had always joked that he would shoot the school. How terrible is that? Not only that they perceived the danger, but that they either didn’t share their concerns with adults or those adults didn’t take them seriously.

We have to give our teens the benefit of the doubt. If they express worry about a classmate or friend (whether that worry is about violence or suicide or depression), we need to listen. Validate what they are seeing, teach them how to get help and how to find resources for their peers.

 


 

Fear is all around us, and it is not something that is going away, especially with the digital world we live in today. Your teenagers are more aware of what is going on around the world than we ever were. They probably knew about the Florida school shooting before you did. Instead of hiding from fear, let’s learn how to cope, have positive conversations, and find helpful resources.

 

What are some resources you have found in times of tragedy? How have you helped teens combat fear?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Making A Better 2018

Making A Better 2018

During my last support group of the semester, we discussed 2018. One student, a senior and a teen mom, shared that she was more motivated than ever to graduate on time in May. Her son is only a few months old, and childcare is an ongoing challenge for her. Even though her path is far from easy, she was excited for what the new year would bring.

Are you excited?

Many of us spend this time of year reflecting on where we want to be. Statistics says that almost half of us will be setting resolutions and goals for 2018. Among the most common goals are: I will exercise every day and eat healthy. I will read one book a month. I will budget my money better. I will get organized. I will travel.

According to Nielsen Analytics Firm, “Only 14 percent of people over 50 actually achieve their resolution, compared to 39% of people in their 20’s.” Many times, people in the 15-24 year-old range have a reputation for not being consistent or not being motivated. However, that just isn’t the case. Students and young adults are willing to take risks and to follow through on those risks. Resolutions are a perfect example of this.

The older we get, the more we allow scars of the past and fear masked as wisdom to get in the way of achieving our goals. We get into our routines and ruts. We insulate ourselves. Our dreams and goals become safer, tamer, less challenging, or perhaps even less world-changing. We don’t have to push ourselves to change, and no one will force it upon us. We calculate our risks and then discuss all of the pros and cons before making a commitment. We often fail to reach them, and in turn become a bit disenchanted with goal-setting.

However, the teen moms I have in my support group each week are more than willing to take risks and follow through with commitments in order to achieve success. What can we learn from them? The mom I mentioned, who is excited and driven to graduate on time, is a great example. She knows that it helps both her and her child in the future for her to do so. Financial difficulties and lack of sleep, among other challenges, are not deterring her. She knows what she wants and knows the path she will need to walk this year in order to achieve her goals. And I believe that she will succeed.

As you make resolutions for 2018, or even if you don’t plan to make any, take a minute and take a page from the students and young adults around you. Encourage your children or the students you interact with each day or week. Ask them what their goals are, and push them to reach for their dreams this year. Statistically, they are more likely to succeed, and they will remember who cheered them onward and who the naysayers were. Pursue your own dreams with zest and passion, and don’t allow the potential risks or the fear of failure prevent you from moving toward an amazing 2018.

 

What are your goals for this year? How can you help the teens in your life reach their full potential in 2018? We are wishing you a Happy New Year full of opportunities and possibilities!

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.
5 Christmas Movie Lessons for Teens

5 Christmas Movie Lessons for Teens

I may have a Christmas movie problem…I love them all! The classics, the musicals, the cartoons, the cheesy ones, the funny ones, the Hallmark ones and everything in between. If it deals with Santa or snow, count me in! To some, these movies may feel silly, boring, or annoying. But they would be wrong, and I am about to prove to you why you (and your teenagers) need Christmas movies in your life.

Most follow the “Christmas Movie Formula” which usually includes a problem at the beginning, a love interest being introduced, a conflict that causes everything to derail before the happily ever after. I’ll admit, many Christmas movies are predictable, but I dare you to find a genre of movies that includes more hope, joy, or inspiration.

Plus the Christmas music. And the snow. Come on!! How could you not love these movies?!

Christmas movies have lessons that apply to life in general, but these lessons specifically apply to teenagers. If the students in our Support Groups grasped these lessons, I truly believe their lives would look completely different.

So here we go…below are 5 lessons that we can learn from the greatest movies of all time. (Please note that there are spoilers. If you have not seen any of these movies, stop what you are doing, go borrow it from your friend, and have a movie night.)

Everyone needs a place to belong. (Elf)

In this hilarious and heartwarming story about Buddy the Elf’s journey to find his family, it is easy to see the importance of belonging. Despite the silliness and sugar obsession, Buddy is desperately seeking a place to belong. In this movie, there is a transformation that takes place in the life of Buddy and all those around him when he becomes his best self under the love and care of a family.

Teenagers are the same way. They desperately want a place to belong and feel safe. They want to be accepted for themselves. Please do not overlook this! We can encourage teens, give them a place to belong, surround them with people who will invest in their lives, and find situations for them to excel. Teens look to peers, but mostly they are going to look to you for belonging that lasts.

 

The small things make a big difference. (It’s a Wonderful Life)

This movie is the definition of a holiday classic. It tells the story of George Bailey and his life that is successful not because of the big things, but because of the small things that have added up over a lifetime. After wondering if his life was worth living, the movie ends with the most beautiful picture of people from all stages of life – people who benefitted from the small things.

Teenagers need to understand that the small things they do matter. Showing up at school, being kind, respecting parents and teachers, serving others, being honest – these small things add up over time and can change lives. Let us encourage the small things, and not just the big accomplishments. Look for ways to praise and recognize the everyday successes.

 

Using your gifts & talents is key to success. (Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

Who doesn’t love these animated Christmas movies?! Rudolf and Hermy the elf decide to run away together to escape the judgement and shame their differences bring. While others have made them believe that their differences make them wrong and weird, they eventually realize that their skills and talents make them uniquely qualified to help in ways others cannot – even saving Christmas!

How many times do teenagers feel this way? They think that they are different and failing because they do not have the right opportunities to actually use the things they are good at. Helping teenagers find their passion and talents is crucial to them finding success. They are going to fail in areas where they feel incompetent. Instead, encourage their skills, point out their gifts, and help teens find opportunities to utilize them.

 

Progress is important, no matter how small. (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

The Grinch is a classic Christmas redemption story. We start with a grouchy, Christmas-hating, exiled character and watch him transform into a lovable Grinch with a heart that is too big and cheeks that are warm. The catch is that he made small changes throughout the entire story, but Cindy Lou Who was the only one who noticed.

So many times, teenagers stop making progress because they don’t feel like their small changes are being recognized or making a difference. They are so wrong, though! When they pull their grade up 3 points, get an extra hour of sleep, offer to help with a chore without being asked add up over time and make a major impact. Progress and change, no matter how small should be celebrated.

 

 

A little hope and a lot of community go a long way. (White Christmas)

This is my very favorite Christmas movie, no contest. And I cry at the end every single time during “The Old Man” scene where 151st division comes together to honor General Waverly. After the General is rejected by the army and is only left with his struggling inn, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis decide to bring his community together to help out. Surrounded by loved ones and with the hope of snow and more profitable days, the General’s attitude completely transforms.

Teenagers need community and hope. This is the number one thing that we find in our Support Groups. When they find a place to belong and see hope that their future can be different, they will change their attitude and actions. When teens are struggling, hope is the first thing we should look to offer!

 

What do you think of these Christmas movie lessons? Do you have other favorite Christmas movies that we can learn from? We would love to hear from you!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Curse of the Zombie Teenagers

Curse of the Zombie Teenagers

Sometimes as a new mom, I feel like I am experiencing a small part of adolescence all over again. Sleepless nights, learning new skills and little control over hormones are just a few things that remind me of those teenage years.

The most debilitating of these “symptoms”? Definitely the lack of sleep. I feel like I can barely function some days.

While facilitating a Support Group at a local Alternative High School this week, we talked about school and discussed how they felt about it. With only one exception, everyone in the group mentioned tiredness and how it affected their school performance. They were falling asleep at their desks, unable to focus on their work, and too tired to even come to school some days. They were walking Zombies!

However, when I asked how they could make school better, none of them talked about getting more or better sleep. Isn’t that interesting? Even though sleep is the one thing they need, they didn’t seem to see how missing out on sleep or going to bed late could negatively impact their whole day.

A few weeks ago my son, Sawyer, went through a sleep regression that had him waking up every 2-3 hours through the night. I had gotten used to waking up once a night but two or three? I was thrown for a loop!

That week and a half, I noticed several things. I was unfocused. I was grumpy. I was lazy. I was emotional. I found myself apologizing to my husband more than usual. Now I am not saying that during normal weeks I am never unfocused, grumpy, lazy or emotional (because I am), but I notice significant increases in these areas when I am tired.

If tiredness can have this affect on me, imagine the impact that the lack of sleep can have on teenagers! According to this WebMD article, there are several surprising effects that lack of sleep can cause:

It can cause accidents. Did you know that driving sleepy can cause similar reaction delays to driving drunk? When our students don’t get enough sleep, they could be a danger to others and themselves!

It can impair memory and learning. Not getting enough sleep can harm cognitive processes. This means that it affects alertness, focus, attention, and reasoning. When teenagers don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, they also won’t be able to remember what they experienced throughout the day, having a major affect on learning and retention.

It can lead to depression. Sleepiness can contribute to the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can also create a vicious cycle – lack of sleep causes depression, and in return, depression can make it hard to fall asleep. Our teenagers do not need another thing that leads to depression and anxiety.

It can cause health problems. Sleep deprivation can cause many health issues from heart disease to obesity. It makes sense if you think about it. Our bodies need sleep to function and when you take that away, your body suffers and tries to make up for it in other ways.

It can impair judgement. When teens (or people in general) do not get enough sleep, they cannot accurately assess events or experiences which can lead to a lack of judgement. This can also apply to a lack of judgment about the affect of sleep-deprivation!

Teenagers are in one of the most important periods of growth. Their brain is developing, their body is growing, they are learning to interact socially. To do these things positively and set them up for success in the future, they need sleep. Plain and simple, this is one of the best things you can teach your teenager today.

They don’t have to be Zombies just because they are teenagers. They can be functioning, smart, witty and alert – if they get the sleep they need!

Let’s encourage teens to turn off the television or gaming system, put down the phones and go to bed at a decent hour. They may push back at the request, but they will be thankful when they are healthy, productive, happy, and making good decisions.

 

How have you seen the impact of lack of sleep? What things can we do to encourage teenagers to get more sleep? Share your ideas – we would love to hear them!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
The 1% Principle

The 1% Principle

The points of my life where I am the most frustrated and discontent are the points where progress halts. I’ve never been a productivity guy, as in rigid schedule keeping or meeting long-term goals, but my general hope is that I am moving in a positive direction and improving various aspects of my life.

In so many ways, this is why I love my work with Teen Life as a Support Group leader. We get to sit with students week after week and talk about what could be better and challenge ourselves to go out and do the work it takes to make it happen. Often these gains are small, but they mean a lot.

Which is why I was struck by a productivity philosophy relatively unknown outside of business schools and self-help circles – The Kaizen Method. Roughly translated (from Japanese) it means “continuous slow improvement”.

The method came into western consciousness after World War II when American automobile makers visited a Toyota automobile plant to research why they were so efficient and error-free in their production lines. Up to this point, American automobile assembly lines were notoriously sloppy and wasteful.

What they found was surprising – essentially any worker on the assembly line had been given the authority to stop the production line if they saw a mistake or flaw in the work, address the issue, then start production again. And on top of that, any worker had the agency to point out flaws in the overall system or even minor details that would make things better.

This is no small deal. Traditionally, outsourcing feedback to assembly line workers was unheard of, and stopping a production line could be costly. Was it really necessary? Couldn’t these small changes be made in ways that kept the production line moving?

When you compare Japanese vehicles to American ones in that time period, the quality and vehicle output were not even close. By far, Japanese vehicles ran farther, had greater overall customer satisfaction, and held greater value than American cars.

And all of this was attributed to the Kaizen Method – the idea that quality products and healthy growth happens not from great individual leaps, but more from small, incremental growth – consistent over time.

When workers were given freedom to fix small problems, flaws in the system were noted in real time and fixed. In American factories, production lines never stopped so if there was a problem, they wouldn’t know until they had to strip down a car and start all over again. Problems were never fixed and the end result was a complete mess.

After this method was uncovered, productivity experts started to apply this principle to self-improvement. The idea manifested in several ways, but one way really stands out – the 1% improvement principle.

The idea is if you really want to develop a habit or get better at something, you need to do so at a very slow pace. Basically, you aim to get 1% better or more regular at doing something each day. And, it actually starts that way if you are starting from scratch.

For example, if you don’t read regularly and you want to, you would start by reading 1 minute a day, then 2 minutes the next, and so on. You are allowing your brain to feel small successes while also building habits over time. So often we want to start a healthier lifestyle by radically changing what we do or going “cold turkey”. But with this principle, we prevent our brain from getting overloaded and stressed – allowing for healthy change over a long period of time.

This works in our support groups with teenagers and my guess is it can work for you. Here are some tips:

  • Choose one thing you want to do differently or better in the coming month. Only choose one thing.
  • Start day one with a small expression of what you want to be doing well in a month. An example would be if you want to save more money than you spend, spend one less dollar on something you normally would. Or, go on a one minute walk.
  • Make sure you schedule that minute or small activity. Even though it is small, it needs to be scheduled so you do it.
  • Add small increments on top of it. Map it out over a month so you can see your progress.
  • Finally, don’t feel guilty for such small steps. You are working on life change, not just trying something new. These things take time, and any time you give is a step in a positive direction.
Chris Robey, Teen Life’s COO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
A Teen Life #TBT

A Teen Life #TBT

Graduation. A wedding. Marriage. An AWESOME new job.

 

Life is full of exciting twists and turns, and during this time of transition, I am honored to partner with Teen Life in a Communications role. This opportunity is definitely a God-thing as it allows me to continue my passion for working with teenagers, especially those who are often overlooked, and it also lets me use my education background and skill-set in planning, organizing, writing, editing and interacting with people.

 

For those of you who do not know what Teen Life is, let me enlighten you! Teen Life is a non-profit organization who seeks out teens where they are, in the schools. Through support groups and monthly meetings for teen parents, Teen Life is doing things that many churches are not able to do because of their unique relationship with the area schools.

 

I cannot say enough good things about this non-profit that has had a huge impact on my life since I was in High School. I am thankful for the opportunity to reach teenagers who are struggling and have no where else to turn. I am excited to see where the Lord takes Teen Life and who He is able to reach through the work that they are doing.

 

I firmly believe that every interaction, every conversation that we have with others is a link in their chain. We don’t know what links have already been in place or what links will be added in the future, but kingdom work asks us to do our part during that specific time and let the Lord take care of the rest. Teen Life may not be the link that completely changes a teenager’s life. They will probably not be the link that completely stops bad decisions, self-doubt and questioning; however, in my eyes, that shouldn’t be the goal in the first place.

 

Teen Life does an excellent job of meeting teens where they are, bringing up questions and introducing resources that can help a teen see a different path. It is an avenue for conversation without judgement, help without a catch and biblical truth without a sermon. We get to help teenagers see the characteristics, relationships and resources they may already have that can change their path. We offer new perspectives, a better attitude or a light bulb moment to help these teenagers feel more equipped to face what is going on in their lives. My hope is that these links, this foundation, might one day make a life change easier, achieving goals seem more realistic, and help these teenagers see that there is a way to live life better.

 

Are you a teenager who needs a safe place to talk? Are you unsure of where to turn next?
Teen Life is for you.

 

Are you passionate about helping teens but can’t find the opportunity to get into their schools?
Teen Life is for you.

 

Are you looking for a cause to partner with through prayer or giving?
Teen Life is for you.
 


 

I wrote this post a little over three years ago for my personal blog. I am actually laughing at how much has changed in that short time. Not only has my family grown, but Teen Life has grown and changed just as much!

Just for the sake of clarity, I changed the name in this blog to Teen Life, but when I originally wrote this, we were still called Teen Lifeline. In three short years…

 

  • We have changed our name, our logo, and our website.
  • We have added two more staff members.
  • We started a podcast.
  • We stopped holding monthly teen parent meetings for the best reason possible – we wrote a curriculum specifically for teen parents and use it in Support Groups on their campuses!
  • We have trained over 180 volunteer facilitators.
  • We went to the National Youth Workers Convention and from that are beginning to expand our reach to schools outside of Texas.
  • We have helped over 5,000 students through Support Groups since 2009.
  • Last year alone, we facilitated 103 Support Groups in 14 school districts!

This is a lot of change. I hope you will celebrate the change with us, because we couldn’t do it without you – our encouragers, supporters, donors, facilitators, counselors and prayer warriors. I can’t wait to see where Teen Life is three years from now!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.