by Karlie Duke | Sep 13, 2018 | Parenting, Personal Development
A couple of weeks ago, we had a huge problem. My son, Sawyer, was refusing to go to sleep at night. Overnight, he went from going to bed in minutes to standing up in his crib, screaming unless he was being held. Until this time, we have been spoiled by his sleeping habits, so when they suddenly changed, I was desperate.
After a couple of nights of rocking him every 15 minutes and then eventually crawling in his crib until he fell asleep, I asked for help. I asked good friends, my mom, and even put it out on Instagram to get the advice and wisdom from my fellow mom friends. This is not something I often do, but after all the great wisdom I got, I wondered, “Why don’t I usually ask for advice or help?”
We encourage teenagers to seek wise counsel, find adults they can trust, and surround themselves with peers who will make them better. Why do we do this? Because we know that they are going to face tough circumstances, and we don’t want them to be alone.
But how often do we follow this advice ourselves? Other than your spouse or very best friend, how often do you share trials, struggles and doubts with the people in your circle?
Lately, there has been a call for people to be more authentic on social media. It is easy for me to post pictures on vacation or of Sawyer when he is smiling, clean, and happy. It is difficult to post images of a dirty house, a home cooked meal that ended up being just okay, or cranky baby. Whether on social media or in real life, it is often difficult for us to admit that we don’t have it all together. We don’t have all the answers. Our lives aren’t always perfect, posed, and picture worthy.
We are wrong.
You need people to talk to and do life with, just like your teenager.
Now, I understand the older we get, the trickier it is to share information about our spouse, kids, or job. Please understand that I am not asking you to break trust or find a group of friends to gossip with. I am simply encouraging you to find a community that you trust and that will give advice to better yourself and your family.
Sometimes this will mean having a friend to call after a long day of work to remind you why you love your job. Other times it might be someone ahead of you in life who will give advice and counsel because they have been through it already. It also may mean having that person who will call you out when you are wrong – who will tell you stay with your spouse when it’s hard or apologize to your kids when you overreacted.
Your people will look different from my people, but here are a few qualities to look for:
- Find someone who you admire. Maybe you love the way they parent, or they have a way of finding joy in every situation. Talk to the people you want to be like, they will make you better.
- Find someone older than you. Peers are great, but talk to others who aren’t in “the weeds” anymore. Talk to someone who has been through something similar but made it to the other side.
- Find someone who is encouraging. When life is hard, sometimes you just need someone to cheer you on! Find the people who will show up at the big and small events. Who will celebrate every victory with you.
- Find someone who is honest. This one is hard. I like people who agree with me. But I need people who will love me enough to tell me when I am wrong or when I should be doing something different. Find someone you trust who you know will always be honest with you.
- Find someone who loves your family. My favorite people to talk to are the ones who know where I am coming from. The people who gave me good advice on Instagram did so because they love my son and want what is best for him. Seek people who love your marriage and your kids, not just you.
Who are these people in your life? Do you see the value in seeking community as adults? Let us know what you think!
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.
by Chris Robey | Oct 12, 2017 | Mental Health, Parenting, Personal Development
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from one of my best friends regarding marriage. This one stuck in my memory for some reason I can’t explain. The advice was prompted by some of my anxieties revolving around leaving the “single life” – something at which I had become adept by virtue of the many years of practice. I was obviously excited about marrying the girl who had become my best friend in life, but I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be like sharing a life with someone else.
The thing is, when we do something new, old things have to pass away. This is a really hard truth as revealed by the millions of broken “resolutions” we find scattered amongst the first few months of the year. We all want to do things better and become better people, but in our efforts we forget my friend’s incredible advice:
“You have to trade one good set of things for another set of good things.”
This advice was ringing in my ears when I read a recent blog post by Dr. Tim Elmore about some encouraging and discouraging statistics on teenagers. You can read it here. Dr. Elmore outlines some great news on teenagers balanced out with some bad news.
Smoking is down.
Junk food consumption is up.
Sexual activity is down.
So is condom use.
Drinking and driving is down.
Texting while driving is up.
Think if you were a charity or non-profit who worked diligently on the issue of drunk driving and seeing the stats fall, only to see traffic fatalities rise for essentially the same problem – impaired driving. Or if you worked tirelessly on educating youth that smoking kills only to see them eating potato chips for dinner?
Teenagers, like adults, tend to find things to help us cope with life. We all have them. Life is stressful and difficult, and we can’t always be on our “A” game. So, we justify certain behaviors so we can “get by”. After a while, we see the error in this thinking and try to change our unhealthy habits.
The problem is, changing an unhealthy behavior has to be followed with something good. We have to trade one set of things for another set of things. The only caveat is, what are we replacing it with?
I found this idea to be true in my own life recently. Since the beginning of the year I’ve tried to lose some weight (which I have) and clean up my eating (which I….kind of have), and found myself eating good during the day but eating unhealthy before bedtime. It’s like I undo all of the good I’ve done throughout the day with a poor eating choice at night.
And because of that, I struggle to meet my goals. I haven’t really traded anything.
As we walk alongside teenagers, we can’t just tell them to “stop doing things” and offer no real alternative or better path. Human beings tend to cope. And if we can’t find healthier ways to cope, we will only find other unhealthy ways.
We can’t get mad at teenagers or disparage an entire generation because they kind of act like us sometimes. Let’s help teenagers find ways to exchange an unhealthy set of behaviors for something good, sustainable, and life-bringing.
For more on this, I’d encourage you to read Dr. Elmore’s brief post about how we use these findings to bring about healthy change with our teenage friends.
Chris Robey, Teen Life’s COO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
by Ricky Lewis | May 12, 2016 | Parenting
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.
by Chris Robey | Oct 29, 2015 | Parenting
On December 17th, 1903 the world began to change. This particular day in Kitty Hawk, NC, two brothers made another attempt to get a heavier-than-air vehicle to fly in a controlled fashion. They were successful, depending on how you view success. They flew their “Wright Flier 1” a whopping 120 feet in 12 seconds, at a scorching speed of 6.8 miles per hour. I joke a little about these stats because of course, they represented something much bigger than the meager leap forward it seemed at the time. After this, everything would change. Our world would become smaller and smaller, eventually giving people of any social status the power to travel anywhere in the world they desired.
But, it didn’t come quickly. After first flight came a flurry of development, testing, and refinement. With these advances came trial and error, mishaps and failure, and many injuries and deaths. In fact, it was almost 24 years later before a non-stop flight over the Atlantic Ocean occurred when Lindbergh and his “Spirit of St. Louis” made the harrowing 33 hour journey from New York to Paris. Lindbergh reported flying anywhere from 10,000 feet above storm clouds to 10 feet above the crashing waves of the Atlantic. By skill, luck, and the grace of God, he found his way across the pond and into world history.
And it was another twenty years before the speed of sound was broken by Chuck Yeager in 1947. What we take for granted in fighter jets and other supersonic aircraft only came around almost fifty years after first flight.
So why am I talking about the history of flight in a blog about teenagers? A significant influence on any modern teenager’s life is the internet, and more specifically social media. These tools and services have infiltrated many, if not all parts of our lives and seems to be here to stay. We find our entertainment, communications, education, and even our social lives within the portals of our laptops, smartphones, and other internet connected devices. When we lose our phones, it is like we lose an appendage. It is now a part of us, completely.
But, the internet and social media haven’t been around very long. The internet as we know it is just a touch over 20 years old, and social media in it’s current form is only a little over ten years old. These technologies are in mere swaddling clothes, though we often see them as grown up and starting their careers.
We forget that the iPhone is only as old as Obama’s first run for the presidency. You read that right. For so many of us who use the iPhone, we don’t realize how young it really is. And Facebook is only a few years older than the iPhone.
Yet for such young technology, we ask it to do everything for us, and we will often let our students use this technology unfettered. When you look back over the history of flight, you see decades upon decades of development, sacrifice, and change for us to get to the dependable form of transportation flight is today. Yet, you would not have hopped on the “Wright Flier 1” to go anywhere you wanted to go safely.
The technology of the internet and social media is so young and untested. Maybe it would benefit us to take a step back and provide some boundaries and limits for our students as we learn how social media and extended screen time really affect us. Here are a few suggestions:
- Create some time each day with no phones or computers.
- Make a “no cell zone” when you go out to eat as a family – phones stay in the car.
- No phones in the bedroom (that goes for parents as well).
- Make all students’ social media accessible for parents (i.e. parents know passwords to student’s social media accounts).
- Find time each day to re-claim face to face conversation.
These are just some ideas, and there are many other ways to create boundaries and space to learn and grow as social media and the internet develops. I’m not saying that we should be scared or fearful of the internet. But I am saying we should be wise about how we integrate it into our lives.
What do you think about this? What other suggestions would you add to this list to create healthy boundaries with social media?
Chris Robey, Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.