Not Your Average Teen Drama

Not Your Average Teen Drama

Grief is an odd friend in our house. Between culture shock kinds of grief and mourning three of our four parents, all but one grandparent and too many friends, we’ve had our fair share. Even since we’ve been self-quarantined, I’ve lost three friends. (None of them to COVID-19.)

There is an odd pause in the collective breath when someone dies and you can’t be together to laugh and cry and remember.

We were made for connection. The Bible says it. Brené Brown says it. I’d say at this point in our world history, we can all make a footnote that says 99.9% of us agree: isolation is not a natural state of humanity. Weddings, funerals, birthdays and graduations are a thing. They are a thing because we were made to celebrate and to grieve together.

From toddlers to teens, our kids are grieving too. They are unruly and restless and not interested in school work. They might act angry sometimes, but anger and angst go hand in hand with grief. And instead of getting together to shake their fists at the sky and dance to angry music, they are forced to stay home in our worldwide time-out while they grieve the loss of what they had hoped. For prom. For graduation. For their summer jobs and trips with friends.

I think we will all look back in twenty years and, having traveled and caffeinated and danced, we will mostly agree that many of the things we are grieving now were frivolous. But at the moment, whether they are voicing it or not, our kids are just sad. And that’s ok. It’s ok to feel sad and to move through the emotion. We will all come out the other side.

As parents and teen workers, one of the most vital things we can do is help them name what they are feeling and create an atmosphere of emotional connection. Whether that’s helping them prank a friend’s yard (save the tp for a more momentous occasion and get creative) or offering a shoulder to cry on, even when all we get is attitude. Start looking for markers to help them commemorate this life event, even when the life events they expected have been marked off the calendar. (Read more about markers here.)

When my toddler starts into a fit these days, something he rarely did until about a week ago, I’ve started pulling him in close and asking what’s making him sad today. Then we pick a friend to FaceTime and bake something. We’ve been baking a lot.

Don’t be afraid to pull your teens in close and ignore the newfound homeschooling power struggle for a moment. No one will remember that late assignment twenty years down the road, but they will remember how you made them feel when the world came crashing down.

We are all grieving the loss of normalcy. We all need a virtual funeral to grieve our expectations and regroup. So schedule your days, pick one fun thing a day to do together, bake a little more than usual, but most of all, give yourself, and your teens, a lot of grace. The struggle is real.

*We’re excited to have Beverly Ross join us in our Impact group next month to speak more on grief. Usually exclusively open to monthly donors and church partners, you can now join Teen Life’s private Facebook group for FREE until further notice due to the Coronavirus. Check out the Teen Life Impact Group for support, discussion, videos, and exclusive content. Join the conversation with Teen Life and our Resident Experts, like Beverly, where we will cover new topics each month that are relevant to living and working with teenagers. In the meantime, you can find more on grief in these posts.

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Assistant

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind.

Seeking Connection

Seeking Connection

We are hard-wired for connectivity.

In the wake of another high school tragedy, I’m ever more convinced that we are losing the art of connection. I say this because, in the case of Nathaniel Berhow, none of the people he interacted with regularly had any clue that he was angry or sad or depressed enough to walk into Saugus High School and shoot five people. He was a “regular guy” who kept to himself.**

We are made to be connected, yet so many of us feel disconnected. Not just alone in a crowd, but lonely in a crowd.

Too many people lack the connectedness of authentic relationships. People who know you, who see you.

I was recently struck by something author and life coach, Martha Beck, said. “Loneliness is proof that one’s innate search for connection is intact.”

Chronic loneliness affects up to 47% of Americans and an estimated 9 million people in the UK according to MDLinx. People long to be connected and seem to be coming up short.

Even more astonishing is that people who report suffering of loneliness also have mortality rates similar to those of a person smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

15 cigarettes a day!

A 2018 study by Cigna and Ipsos found that among the lonely, Generation Z is the loneliest. The study notes that “Feeling like people around them are not really with them, feeling shy, and feeling like no one really knows them well are among the most common feelings experienced by those in the Generation Z (adults ages 18-22).” Students were also found to be the loneliest.

Loneliness plagues our society: the chronically lonely and everyone, who aware or unaware, knows someone who is lonely. Or who will at some point in their own lives feel lonely.

There are many reasons why loneliness or feeling disconnected from society might require external intervention. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.*

There is one solution that both sides of the equation have in common. It’s obnoxiously simple.

Be kind.

Simple acts of kindness are the easiest way to start building connections.

If you are lonely or sad or angry, take a small step toward healing with some small act of kindness.

Even if you don’t feel like you need anything, but want to make the world a better place, go out of your way to be kind to someone.

In looking beyond our own feelings and seeking to help others, we build connection where none existed and strengthen connections we already had. Because kindness can be the heart of connectivity.

In the 1970s, Dr. Robert Nerem performed a health study using rabbits. The crazy thing is that he discovered as much about the importance of kindness as he did about health. The rabbits that were supposed to be declining in health fared 60% better when they had a caretaker who was kind to them.

The results are two-fold. It actually improves your own mental health and consequently your own physical health when you consider others first. And it improves the health of the people around you too.

One of our favorite books at our house lately is Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller. The main character asks, “But what does it mean to be kind anyway?”

I think most people over 10 can come up with a few simple examples, but it seems that many people over 10 have trouble executing on them.

Here’s the thing. It’s so easy to start.

Hold a door open.
Make eye contact and smile at the cashier the next time you check out.
Ask a friend how they are doing and actually wait for the answer.
Take cookies to your neighbor.
Volunteer at a local charity.

You can choose a commitment level. Kindness is usually free. It doesn’t have to take much time. But it changes everything. Better yet, it connects us all.

We are a lonely crowd.

But we don’t have to be.

And maybe we can start healing the tragedy that is plaguing our schools and communities. Maybe we can start seeing the Nathaniels in our midst. It probably won’t fix all the problems. But it might be a good start.

*If you are lonely and looking for more ideas on where to start, check out this article from Good Housekeeping.
**To read more about high school shootings, have a look at our 2018 post, Combatting Fear in the Face of School Shootings.

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Assistant

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.

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind.

3 Ways to Help Prevent Suicide

3 Ways to Help Prevent Suicide

Recently, 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.

Thank You for 10 Years!

Thank You for 10 Years!

One of the best parts of working with a non-profit is the people who support your cause. Obviously, we love working with teenagers – serving them is why we got into this! But there is a whole other side of our organization that makes our jobs all that more enjoyable – our supporters.

One time a year, we all get together for an evening to celebrate what has happened with Teen Life over the past year and to fund what is to come. This last Tuesday we had our fourth annual Teen Life Dinner & Auction in Southlake, TX. Almost 200 of our advocates and new supporters gathered in a room to celebrate 10 years of Teen Life and dream about what is to come.

And, what a night it was – we raised almost $68,000 between sponsorships, auction items, and general donations. We were able to hear from some of our facilitators and counselors – we even had a trained facilitator at each table! We ate great food and enjoyed rich conversations. Really, it was an incredible evening. My head is still kind of spinning from it all!

If you were able to attend and donate to our dinner – Thank You! Your generosity will launch us into our next ten years with confidence that our students will have the support they need at their schools. And if you were new to the dinner – we are thrilled you know us and can talk about what we do to the people in your circles. We believe our organization is worth investing in because we are making a significant impact with such a simple service.

And if you were not able to attend the dinner but still would like to donate – we have an opportunity for you! We have set a stretch goal to get us to $75,000 raised by the end of the week! That’s only a little over $7000 to get us there – can you help? Check out our video and follow the donation button below. It is simple and secure to give – and goes a long way to make an impact.


So again from Teen Life – thank you! We are excited we get to continue this great work in our community – because of you!

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s CEO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
2016 Reader Survey

2016 Reader Survey

This year, the Teen Lifeline staff made a goal to bring you more resources by posting on our blog at least once a week. We are excited about the content that we are able to provide and want to continue to improve! Below, you will see a link for the “Reader Survey.” Will you please take a few minutes to fill this out? By giving us feedback, you are helping us put out content and resources that are relevant to you!

Is there a topic you wish we would cover? Check out the survey.

Do you have a suggestion for how we can make this better? Tell us in the survey.

Are you so excited about the Teen Lifeline blog that you can barely stand it? We want to here from YOU in the survey!

Thank you in advance for subscribing and supporting the Teen Lifeline blog! We have an exciting announcement coming soon that will bring you even more resources – make sure you are subscribed so you won’t miss out!

 


 

Reader Survey

 

5 Ways to Misuse Hashtags

5 Ways to Misuse Hashtags

 

Hashtags have become a part of everyday life. Literally…
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#SelfieSunday

#MotivationMonday

#TransformationTuesday

#WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday)

#TBT (Throwback Thursday)

#FlashbackFriday (Why do we need 2 of these, again?)

#Caturday (Apparently this is a thing?)

 

We use them, love them, and abuse them. But why do we use hastags? What is the point? And most importantly – how can we make abusive hashtagging stop??

Merriam-Webster defines “hashtag” as: a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text (such as a tweet).

 

IMG_0136 Hashtags are GREAT, especially when you want to find videos from Taylor Swift’s latest concert, or pictures of really cute animals or children, or if you’re looking for funny/inspirational quotes.

     However, we also use hashtags for tons of things that don’t really make sense, like…

to let people know you are naturally good looking #nofilter

to humble-brag #blessed

to let people know you took a photo yourself (like we couldn’t tell) #selfie

to laugh at yourself #lolololol

 

 

Before I share the major ways hashtags are abused, please hear me say, if you do any of the following, I am not judging you (I have done most of these myself). And I am not even telling you to stop using hashtags – just please be smart/reasonable/intentional when you use hashtags.

 

5 Ways to Misuse #Hashtags

5. #PhotoOfTheDay #IAmCool

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Let me just say, when you use hashtags to build yourself, your tweet, or your picture up, you make it not cool. Sorry, Mr. Pasta Man, but I do not think that your picture is going to be “Photo of the Day” for anyone besides your mom.

Don’t feel the need to #hashtag how great your material is; instead, let other people tell you how great/pretty/cute you are – it means more coming from them!

 

4. #This #is #not #a #sentence

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Just because you can hashtag something, doesn’t mean that you should. Be intentional about the hashtags you use. If they have a purpose, great! If you use too many hashtags, it’s annoying.

Plus, if you buy into Merriam-Webster’s definition, hashtags are meant to categorize, and who wants to look up pictures of #the? Not me.

 

3. #TheEventHashtagFail

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I love event and wedding hashtags (see my own wedding hashtag above)! I think they are fun and perfect for when you want to look back on an event or see the bride of a wedding you missed. However, bad event hashtags are a pet peeve of mine.

Don’t use forever long hashtags that no one can remember and therefore will not use like, #MrandMrsTieTheKnotandLiveHappilyEverAfter. No one will ever take the time to type that out.

Also, don’t use event hashtags that are unspecific and have been used 1,000,000 times already, it defeats the purpose! #Fundraiser #BeSpecific

Event hashtags are popular and useful, but don’t abuse your hashtag power or feel the need to create a hashtag when it won’t serve a purpose. Once again, be intentional.

 

2. #MyBabyisCuterThanYours

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First of all, this is a real hashtag…that tens of thousands of people have used.

I might step on some toes with this one, but #please be careful when you create hashtags for you children!

Yes, they are cute and yes, creating individual hashtags makes it easier for you to find all of their pictures in one place, but you also just made it easy for me and Creepy-Joe-next-door to find those same pictures…

Post pictures of your kids (or pets) and make us all jealous of their cuteness, but remember that one day, they might have their own social media, and they might not want everyone to be able to access all of their childhood pictures with one click of a cleverly-crafted #hashtag.

 

1. #LikeMe #FollowMe #Like4Like

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This is a HUGE one. Don’t believe me?

As of right now on Instagram, #likeme has been used 7,762,513 times. #follow me has been used 262,561,542 times.

Yep. That is literally millions of posts asking people to like, follow, comment, and approve of their pictures.

In this social media driven culture, your success is sometimes based solely on how many twitter followers, instagram likes and comments you have. However, using these hashtags can be so self-deprecating. Wanting to gain a like or follower at any cost (even if it’s spam) doesn’t make you more popular, it makes you look desperate.

If you want some more insight into this particular subject, check out Sarah Brooks’ post, “Parents: A Word about Instagram”!

 

Let’s agree to hold our hashtags to higher standards and not fall into the trap culture sets when it tries to trick you into breaking the internet with excessive hashtag use!

 

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