Compassion for the Task at Hand

Compassion for the Task at Hand

This past week I had the honor of speaking to about 100 students over the span of four nights at a church camp. I’ve never been asked to keynote a whole camp before, so obviously I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Our topic was about identity, which is a theme this particular group of students has been studying over the last year. I believe identity is one of the most important topics anyone can engage in when it comes to socialization, personality, spirituality, relationships, really anything. This is especially true with teenagers.

Those who study adolescents say these precious young people are on a journey between childhood and adulthood – and the bridge across is called “adolescence”. All adolescents have a task – identity formation. And for the most part, their identity formation is driven by a single, but inaudible question, “Who am I?”

I love talking to teenagers about this. It’s like I’m sharing a secret with them that no other adults are willing to share. I had multiple teens come up to me after my talks and say, “I love that you told us about this! It helps things make so much more sense!”

It’s not only a shame that teenagers do not understand more about the journey they are on, but also that adults seem to be late to the party as well. When we interact with teenagers and decisions they make, we often forget what is driving many of those decisions to begin with – the big question. So when your student comes home with purple hair or has completely changed their belief system on a particular issue with no warning – maybe there is more going on than them just being rebellious.

You see the driving question of “Who am I?” isn’t something they audibly ask – it’s something they work out by trying on new skins or doing things differently than they used to. Sometimes they will be more childlike than adult-like and visa versa. But it’s all part of the process of figuring out who they are.

Why is this important? One word. Compassion.

Being a teenager is hard and confusing. There are so many messages out there, so many things competing for their attention that it can get overwhelming to figure out who they really are. So when they make feeble attempts through their decisions and interactions, they won’t always get it right. And if we can approach them with patience and compassion, connections and relationships form – all things that will outlast dumb decisions!

I encourage our readers to view the teenage years gently and with grace. As adults who help teenagers, we have the opportunity to lead with compassion, building connections along the way. This can only be done by understanding and accepting what teenagers are up to – developmentally. They are literally figuring out who they are. And, if we can be there – encouraging, asking questions, being slow to judge – our kids will have the support they need to complete this task.

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

A Helpful Metaphor

In the fog of family life, sometimes we need good language and descriptors to help us best understand the challenges of parenting. Sometimes being told what to do directly from another parent isn’t that helpful and might even cause some resentment. You know how it is – if you are really struggling to find clarity in the midst of juggling parenting, career, family life, finances, and community involvement, someone telling you the exact way to deal with all of that seems at the very least…detached.

I am a Christian, and as a follower of Jesus, one of the aspects of his teachings that are the most helpful are his parables. These stories capture timeless truths about how people interact, relate with each other and God, as well as provide a better way to live. The fascinating thing about these parables is how they tend to hold up and provide a solid framework to live in our postmodern world. I love how stories, images, and metaphors seem to cut through to the heart of things and give us the perspective we need.

One of the common anxieties of adults who work with teenagers revolves around the teenager’s tendency to distance themselves from their parents and other close adults as they explore what it means to be an individual. So many take this personally and don’t deal with it very well. Sometimes the rejection is met with rejection, and relationships are fractured. Other times, the “pushing away” is met with a lack of trust and increased skepticism, further driving a wedge in the relationship.

Dr. Kara Powell wrote a really helpful piece on this subject last year (you can find it here) and used a quote from the book, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour:

“Your daughter needs a wall to swim to, and she needs you to be a wall that can withstand her comings and goings. Some parents feel too hurt by their swimmers, take too personally their daughter’s rejections, and choose to make themselves unavailable to avoid going through it again…But being unavailable comes at a cost…Their daughters are left without a wall to swim to and must navigate choppy—and sometimes dangerous—waters all on their own.”

This metaphor perfectly illustrates what it means to be an adult in the life of a teenager. To be the wall you must:

– Choose to be the adult.

– Understand your role in the life of a teenager.

– Be steady, ready, and available.

– Communicate constantly your availably and readiness when they choose to return.

Teenagers need solid adults who stay in place for students to “kick off” of to explore what it means to be human in sometimes dangerous waters. Parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, mentors, and counselors play a crucial role to create safety and boundaries as students figure these things out.

What do you think about this? What other helpful metaphors work for you to describe working with teenagers? 

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
Don’t Panic about a Bad Story with Dr. Michael Arnold

Don’t Panic about a Bad Story with Dr. Michael Arnold

Listen & Subscribe:  iTunes | Android | RSS


 

Story-telling is a powerful tool, especially when working with teenagers. In this episode, Dr. Michael Arnold joins Chris to discuss Narrative Therapy and how you can use stories to start conversations and deepen relationships with teenagers. Don’t panic about Narrative Therapy, even you can utilize the power of story and metaphors!

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • What Narrative Therapy is and how it can be used in counseling and everyday life.
  • The 3 stages of Narrative Therapy.
  • How we can help students reconstruct their story.
  • Why story is so important in our culture.
  • How you can use Narrative Therapy to build deeper relationships with teenagers.

Ask yourself…

  • Am I taking time to be still and just listen?
  • What do I want to change about my own story?

Go ask a teen…

  • What do you want this to mean in the future for you?
  • Is there anything that you want to be different in your story?

Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Michael Arnold, Psy.D., M.A.C.L. is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with over 17 years of education, training, and professional experience in providing psychological services for individuals, couples, and groups. Dr. Arnold is the founder of Alliance Counseling and Psychological Services in Southlake, Texas. He believes that therapy should consist of creating a safe and supportive environment to promote one’s ability to thrive in response to life’s challenges.

Chris Robey is the Program Director for Teen Lifeline, Inc. 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 started working as Teen Lifeline’s Communications Director after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications with a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 5 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!

5 Tips to Better Listen to Your Teen

5 Tips to Better Listen to Your Teen

All of us that work with teenagers have a difficult task. How do we sort through the noise of adolescent life and glean the important information students are trying to tell us so that we can be a helpful adult in their life? Of course, there is no perfect answer but as I have worked with teenagers for over a decade, some things have stood out as effective listening strategies. Teen Lifeline even uses more than 10% of the time in our 1-day Facilitator Training to talk about how to listen better.

 

To set this up, you will need to set aside some assumptions. First, as adults we have to believe that we do not have all the answers. This requires a daily reminder for most of us and for some like me, multiple times a day. I tend to think the life experience I have equals relevant information for the kids in my house or the students I work with. The problem here is there are too many details missing for us to make that big of an assumption. This is not to say that there is no value to our experience, that is a big part of what we rely on to learn from. I do believe it is true though that our experience is not the most important factor but instead how we handled that experience. That said, we must be willing and able to hear what a particular student is going through (really hear it) before we can realize the most important lesson we can share from what we have learned and model for them the “how” of handling things rather then the “what to do” in a particular situation.

 

Once we have our mindset in the right place, we can move forward with developing our listening skills.
 

1. Don’t be afraid to admit you missed something. As humans, our brains are constantly processing what is coming our way. This includes engagement in conversation with anyone. The difficulty is that it is hard to stop this process from happening since we are wired that way. Since this is true, it is completely appropriate to admit your brain was thinking about something else and you need the person to repeat what they just said so you can make sure you are catching what they are sharing with you.

2. Intentionally pause 15 seconds once the person stops talking. The key here is to do this intentionally, allowing time for the person to be done with their thought. In addition you can use this time to form a response either to summarize what you heard, ask for clarification or offer advice. If you are intentional about this, you are less likely to fall prey to number 1 above.

3. Limit your comments. This takes a lot of practice because we all want to believe that what we think is valuable. However, it is important to realize that it is only valuable if the people you are sharing it with see it that way. If you decide going into a conversation you are only going to speak things related to the conversation, it will help you listen more intently and offer more helpful, relevant questions and thoughts.

4. Pay attention to what matters, not every word they say. If you have worked with teenagers for longer then 6 weeks, you know that not everything they say is important or helpful to knowing what is really going on. That said, we have to work hard to listen carefully and catch the pieces that are most important to focus on those. Once you practice this a few times, it gets easier and you will find you’re able to listen for words, phrases, inflection or even pace of speech that tips you off to what is important.

5. If you can’t listen now, ask the person to wait. As adolescents, and this applies to younger kids too, there is a tendency to just jump in and start talking whether the person is listening or not. At our house, my wife has started handling this very effectively. She will say “I really want to listen to you because you are important, but I can’t right now. Give me a few minutes, and I will focus on what you want to tell me.” Yea, she is pretty good at this stuff!

So now it’s up to you to decide. Is this helpful? Does it bring up thoughts or questions you want to share? Comment below or reach out to us on social media or by email. We want to keep growing, and we hope you do too. If you did find this helpful, take a minute to forward the email, post it online or tell a friend – you don’t even have to give us credit (though we are okay if you do :). 

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.

Don’t Panic about Preparing Teens for the Future with David Fraze

Don’t Panic about Preparing Teens for the Future with David Fraze


 

We have some bad news…your teen is going to grow up and become an adult. A scary thought, we know! But in this episode, join the conversation with Dr. David Fraze about what this transition looks like and how we can better prepare teenagers to emerge as functioning, responsible adults. Your teen will eventually leave you, but don’t panic – you’ve got this!

 

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • The 3 questions teens are tasked with before emerging into adulthood.
  • What teenagers need to walk through the transitions in adolescence.
  • The role of adults in a student’s life.
  • Ways to deliberately provide teenagers with adult connections.
  • How to help students build healthy peer relationships.
  • What you can do to prepare teenagers for adulthood.
Our students are incredible people that can be molded. - @DontPanicTalk @DavidFraze1 Click To Tweet

 

Ask yourself…

  • How can I better praise teens based on who they are and not just what they do?
  • What kind of example of character, of choice making, of responsibility, and of rule following am I setting?
  • What am I teaching teenagers about being an adult?

 

Go ask a teen…

  • How many significant adult relationships do you have in your life?
  • Who are the 5 adults that you would talk to if you wouldn’t want my advice?
  • What is it like to be a teenager in 2016?

 

Resources:

 

About Us:

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David Fraze (D.Min., Fuller Theological seminary) is Special Assistant to the President of Lubbock Christian University and Fort Worth Area Director and Manager of DFW Character Coaches for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is a popular speaker and writer on all things youth ministry and adolescence. Based out of North Richland Hills, Texas, David has been working with students for over 25 years. Follow him on Twitter!

 

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Chris Robey is the Program Director for Teen Lifeline, Inc. 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!

 

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Karlie Duke started working as Teen Lifeline’s Communications Director after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications with a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 5 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!

 

 

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