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. 

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.

3 Ways to Follow Through

3 Ways to Follow Through

Saying nice things to teenagers is easy…following through is the hard part!

How are you doing?

We should get lunch sometime.

I want to hear about ____ next time I see you!

I am praying for you.

What can I do for you?

How many times have you said or asked a teen something similar? How many times do you actually follow up and go to lunch? Do you ask them about that conversation a few months down the road? Do you remember that anniversary or date that means something to them?

Recently I went to lunch with a teen who talked about the power of following through. In the midst of loss, she needed people who would actually show up. Who would stop right there and pray for her. Who would send follow-up texts telling her they were thinking of her. Who would ask about lunch and make it happen. She said the nice things people said meant nothing if they weren’t backed by actions.

I have a confession. I am guilty of this. I have relationships with many students that I counseled at camp, volunteered with, or have been invested in for years. When they come back from college, I tell them we should get lunch. When they graduate high school, I say I want to hear about their plans. I tell them to call or text me if they need anything. In theory, I am saying and doing all the right things, but do I really expect that teen to call me when they get overwhelmed the first week of school or when they get in a bad situation with friends? Have I shown that I am worth calling? Or have I only shown that I can say nice things but am too busy to check in when it counts?

Ouch.

Writing that hurts. Maybe it even hurts for you to read?

But we can change that! We can be better, more supportive, and more invested. Here are three easy ways to follow through and mean it.

 

Be specific.

If you are going to ask a question, ask if you can do something specific. Instead of, “How can I help?”, ask things like, “Can I take you to lunch next week?” “Can I drive you to your next counseling appointment?” “Can I visit the grave of your loved one with you?” “Can I bring you a Sonic drink during your next shift at work?”

Let them know what you will do and when you will do it. If they aren’t ready for your help yet, they will let you know, but they will also know that you care and that you are trying.

 

Follow through in the moment.

Similar to the previous point, instead of setting some hypothetical lunch date in the future, get out your calendar and find a day that will work. If you are telling a teen that you will be praying for them, stop right there and pray for them before they leave. When texting a teen about something that is going on, ask if you can call right then instead of putting off the conversation.

We all get busy – teens and adults alike. Instead of using busyness as an excuse, get in the habit of only making promises that you will actively schedule time for when you make the commitment.

 

Check in down the road.

So you went to lunch. You prayed. You asked the right questions, and showed up at the right time. You are awesome! But more than showing up in the moment, we have to be willing to follow up down the road.

A year after their friend died, check in and let them know you are thinking of them. If a parent died, ask if you can come over on a birthday, Mother’s/Father’s Day, or ask if they need someone to take pictures before prom or go dorm room shopping. If they mentioned that they are seeking counseling, ask how that is going. Do they feel like it is helping? What have they learned? If you promised to pray for them, tell them that you are! Ask if the request has changed and how you can better pray for them moving forward.

 

Lately, I have had several conversations with people who said that when they were at their lowest, they don’t remember the words that were said, they remember the people who showed up. Who sent flowers. Who stepped in the gap when they knew a day or occasion would be particularly hard. Who sat beside them and just let them question, cry, or celebrate.

Teenagers need you to show up, not have all the right answers. We can do that! It might take a shift in our thinking, but let’s seek to be as intentional with our actions as we are with our words.

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.
The Unexpected Loss of a Child with Dana Gage

The Unexpected Loss of a Child with Dana Gage

 

We all dread the unexpected, but you never think it could happen to you or your family.

In the final episode of this series on The Unexpected, Dana Gage shares the story of her youngest son, Connor Gage, and his death in 2012. 15-year-old Connor went to the lake for a birthday party and after jumping from the boat dock, did not resurface. The Gage family was completely changed from that day forward, but there is so much more to their story now! In this emotional and honest interview, Dana shares the story of their family and their continued road to healing. It has not been easy or simple, but the Gage family is striving to live buoyantly in honor of Connor.

In this episode, we talk about grief, the role of social media, water safety, and supporting siblings who have lost loved ones.

If you have experienced the loss of child, or are walking through life with a teen who has lost a loved one, this is the podcast for you! We invite you to join our conversation with Dana Gage.

 

 

Listen & Subscribe:  iTunes | Google Play | RSS

Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Dana Gage is founder of The LV Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to buoyancy, on water and in life. Dana previously served as VP of Marketing of Tribune Media Services. Prior to that, she served in sales and marketing positions for various cable-related businesses. Dana is an active member of the water safety community, is a founding member of Families United to Prevent Drowning and currently serves on the board of the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC). Dana holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Dana and her husband live in North Richland Hills, Texas. Their son, Riley, makes his home in Waco, Texas.

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 6 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!
Beverly Ross Talks Grief (Rebroadcast)

Beverly Ross Talks Grief (Rebroadcast)

Listen & Subscribe:  iTunes | Android | Google PlayRSS


 

Grief comes in many different forms, but it is something everyone deals with at some point in life. In this episode, Chris and Karlie are joined by Beverly Ross to talk about the the basics of grief, what to expect from a grieving teenager and how we can better support teens who are grieving. Don’t panic about grief, there is a way to bring hope and encouragement to difficult circumstances!

In this episode, you’ll find out…
  • Some of the unique ways teenagers deal with grief.
  • Advice about what can be said or done to better walk alongside a teen experiencing grief.
  • Signs that a teen might need to seek help from a professional.
  • Examples of grief-producers, especially for teenagers.
  • How to use the acronym PERS (Physical, Emotional, Relational, Spiritual) to positively cope with grief.
  • Ways we as a community can surround and encourage those who are grieving.
Ask yourself…
  • Am I putting too much pressure on myself to do or say the perfect thing?
  • Could this teenager be talking to someone else if they aren’t talking to me?
  • Am I aware of important dates that I need to remember and recognize?
Go ask a teen…
  • What do you need?
  • What is it like for you right now? Tell me your story.
  • What would you like to do for holidays? How would you like to hold space?
Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Beverly Ross, M.A., LPC-S, is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and the Executive Director of Wise County Christian Counseling. She is experienced in dealing with marriage and family matters, as well as individual issues such as depression, anxiety and grief support.  Beverly is a sought-after speaker and an international advocate for women’s ministries.  Follow her on Twitter!

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!