Ep. 12: Pronouns & Summer Activities

Ep. 12: Pronouns & Summer Activities

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Summary:
When it comes to the mental health of our teenagers, we can’t ignore the LGBTQ youth. In this week’s podcast episode, Chris and Karlie discuss pronouns and how mental health is impacted when pronouns are respected. Also, get ideas for family fun that will have even your teens smiling. Make sure to listen till the end for this week’s tip for helping teens manage their social media.

All Teen Life Summit sessions are available on demand until August 10. Register and watch at any time. Use code podcast20 for $20 off!

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

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!
About Us:
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.
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

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.

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Some Encouragement for Educators

Some Encouragement for Educators

We, at Teen Life, love the local school. Over my six years with the organization, I’ve been on what feels like hundreds of school campuses and interacted with the women and men who create these learning environments. They have a hard job and it seems like everything is changing – always! Whether it’s new students, students leaving, policy changes, administration changes, shifts in educational standards – whatever it is – our educators exist in a dynamic work environment. Literally it’s something new every day.

And for those tasked with the social/emotional health of students, things can become more complicated. In order for a child to learn, they need to have basic needs met, and one of those is safety. We sometimes view safety as shelter from physical harm, but it absolutely stretches into emotional and social safety. A child needs to know they will be supported and given the things they need in order to engage in any kind of learning process. Those counselors and interventionists are tasked with a big job – especially considering the pressures put on them to keep struggling kids in their classrooms.

As another summer looms large, let us remember the rest and rejuvenation ahead for our educators. The rigors of a school calendar can be draining and push people to the limit. In our religious tradition, we find the practice of Sabbath on a weekly basis to create intentional time to rest, rejuvenate, worship, and play. In the scriptures, we find examples of longer sabbaths where the people took a rest from their work for extended periods in order to let their communities rest.

The summer break was originally put in place to allow families to have their kids home on the farm for harvest, now it is just a way of life. But I believe it allows for a natural rest cycle to happen not only for the students, but for educators as well.

So if you are an educator reading this – take advantage of this time! Here are a few things to think about:

  • Make a plan for your rest. Yeah, I know that seems counter-intuitive, but there is something about having some goals set to make you a better person on the other end of the break. What books do you want to read? Where do you want to go? What projects have been pushed aside? What Netflix needs to be consumed?
  • Do you need to say “no” to anything this summer? Are other people trying to take time away from your break? Obviously say “yes” to the important things, but depending on what you need, you might have to say “no” every now and then.
  • Ask yourself, “How do I want to be better after this break?” Do you want to create a new habit? Learn more about something new? Achieve a goal? Write that down and put it somewhere that you will see it.
  • Stay off social media. Not much else to say here.

 

Educators – you have earned the break. Thank you for loving our kids and pouring so much into their development. Thank you for creating welcoming environments to an ever-diverse student body. Thank you for dealing with difficult parents, the bureaucracy of public schools, and the politics of this day and age.

Teen Life loves our local school friends! We will see you in August!

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s CEO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
Teen Lifeline Summer Reading List

Teen Lifeline Summer Reading List

Summer is the perfect time to slow down and read a good book. Maybe you want to learn about something new, gain a new perspective or just need to laugh. As we get closer to the new school year, we hope that you’ll take advantage of the time you have left and stretch your mind! Below are a few of our book recommendations if you need a starting point.

For teenagers:

For Young Men Only by Jeff Feldhahn or For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn

I actually read this book (the one for girls, obviously) when I was in High School. It is a light read but packed full of awesome and interesting information. Both of these books are written specifically for teenagers! Backed up with research and stories, this is a great resource for teens, especially as they begin to enter the dating world. They tackle questions like Why are boys so weird? Why can girls be so crazy sometimes? Why do boys want your respect more than your love? Why are good girls attracted to bad boys?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Disclaimer, this book releases on July 31, 2016 so I haven’t read this yet. However, it is a follow-up on the Harry Potter series, so it has to be good, right?! This “Script Book” follows Harry and his youngest son, Albus, as they try to overcome the past and the pressure of family legacy.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

What if there was a roadmap for how to not only survive adolescence but to thrive? This book by Sean Covey offers tools and tricks specifically for teenagers. He covers topics like responsibility, prioritizing, peer pressure and how to handle parental relationships. It is crucial for teenagers to develop healthy habits now – don’t wait and check out this book!

 

For parents:

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary Chapman

Do you feel like you just aren’t communicating well with your teenager? This adaptation of Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, gives you the tools and resources to show love to your teenager in a way that best communicates to them! This book describes development, explains the teenage world and covers the 5 different love languages. Let’s learn to love teenagers more effectively!

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

Hands down, this is the best book I read this year. While I’m sure men would find this book witty and charming, this one is mainly for the ladies. Jen Hatmaker will make you laugh until you cry as she covers marriage, parenting and important topics like yoga pants and coffee. In a world full of Pinterest and Instagram parents, Jen encourages women to break free of shame and impossible standards.

For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid  by Shaunti Feldhahn

Written by the same person who wrote For Young Men/Women Only, this book uses a survey and interviews with teens and tweens to discuss things that parents don’t always understand about their children. This short book will cover topics such as their need for freedom, how the boundaries parents set impact teens, how to get teens to open up and talk to you, and ways to help them feel more secure and confident.

 

For youth ministers:

Lead Small: Five Big Ideas Every Small Group Leader Need to Know by Reggie Joiner

I read this book last fall and absolutely loved it! This book is great for small group (or Teen Lifeline Support Group) principles. By leading small, youth ministers, volunteers and small group leaders can have a tangible impact on teenagers’ lives. By investing, you can have a greater and more long-term relationship. This small books is a quick-read and will equip you to lead great small groups in your youth ministry.

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill

It is not a secret, homosexuality is a no longer a topic that can be ignored by the church. Wesley Hill uses personal experience and scripture to discuss the question, Is there a place for “celibate, gay christians in the church?” I have loved the perspective and heart behind this book. It is not a book of judgement or condemnation but offers a message of hope and grace.

 

Have you read any other books lately that you would like to recommend? Please let us know your book suggestions and thoughts after you read some from our list! 

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.

5 Ways to Keep Teens Safe This Summer

5 Ways to Keep Teens Safe This Summer

As a teenager, there are few things greater than Summer Break – no school, getting to sleep in, more time with friends, days by the pool or at the lake, family vacations, snow cones, and fewer rules.

Wait, fewer rules? How does that make sense?

Unfortunately, as teenagers gain more free time in the summer, many are also held to lower standards, fewer boundaries and later curfews. As someone who works with students in the school year, who hears about their wild weekends, and crazy summer stories, please don’t make it easier for your child to get into trouble. 

Summer is fun (and it should stay that way), but fun doesn’t mean that you stop parenting. Summer is the time when you need to be even more on guard! As the parent (or friend, coach, youth minister, mentor) of a teenager, it is your job to help them set their boundaries, manage freedom and make good decisions. Teenagers will resent boundaries and probably even fight you, but in hindsight, they want and need you to set rules (we’ve written about this before here).

To set healthy boundaries, try some of these principles this Summer!

1. Be aware of their location at all times.

I’m not necessarily saying you have to track them by GPS, but set a standard where they will call or text you before they change locations. It can be a simple text, but it let’s you know what they are planning and forces them to think through a plan and communicate that to you.

Are they going to a friend’s house for the afternoon? Great! Are they leaving to grab a sonic drink? Sounds good! Finally on their way home? See you soon!

Hopefully this is an easy boundary and one without much push-back from your teenager. I encourage you to present this as a way to communicate with your teen and not as an I’m-always-watching-you rule. Knowing their location gives you the opportunity to ask follow up questions when you see them – to ask about the friends they are with, where they ate and what they did for fun. It also shows that you care enough about them to ask those questions. And that makes more of a difference than you know!

2. Set a curfew and stick to it.

What time you set their curfew is entirely up to you, and maybe you want to make it a little later in the Summer, but don’t get rid of curfew altogether just because school is out! Maybe they have the same curfew until they graduate, or maybe the curfew starts at 10 and is moved to midnight as they get older. You know your child and what they need best!

It is important to set a curfew before it ever becomes an issue. If they show up 2 AM and you haven’t talked about a curfew, you can’t logically get upset – you should have set the precedence beforehand! This principle is good for you and them. If they are out past curfew and have followed the first principle, you should know where they are and who to call to find them.

Another part of this is to stick to the curfew, especially if they ask to spend the night somewhere after they have already left the house. You know the rules and boundaries of your house, but not every parent or house holds their kids to similar standards. If teenagers know that they can change plans on their parents at a moment’s notice, they will ask to spend the night at that friend’s house after they have gotten drunk because they know those parent’s won’t care. Or they’ll get high in the bedroom of another friend because their parents never come upstairs to check on them. Don’t give them an excuse to do something stupid and not come home!

3. Enforce an “accountability rule.”

You can tailor this rule to fit your family and what makes you comfortable. For my family, I had to kiss my mom every time I came home, even if she was already asleep. I didn’t understand this “rule” until later when I realized that she was making sure I didn’t come home smelling like alcohol or drugs.

I would say that my parents trusted me in High School and their actions showed that, but they also were smart enough to set up some guidelines that would hold me accountable.

Maybe you make them wake you up when they get home to make sure everything is okay, or maybe you are a night-owl and want to stay awake until they walk through the front door. Whatever rule you set, find a way to hold your teenager accountable!

4. Keep conversation open.

While boundaries and rules are good for teenagers, so is healthy communication with their parents! If you want to keep your teenagers safe, the best way to do that is to be aware of what is going on in their life.

If you already talk to your teenager regularly and share life, keep doing that! If you don’t talk and don’t know where to start, read this blog on how to get the most out of your teen and the conversations you have. You can keep the conversation open by listening well, asking good questions and remaining invested in their life.

5. Be cool without being too cool.

Be a place where your teenager and other teenagers feel like they can come for a good time and a listening ear. If you are worried about the rules of other households, become a house where teens want to be but that will also be safe! Bake cookies, grill out, let them have game nights. Open up your house to be a place where they can gather without needing alcohol or drugs.

Also, it is important to be a safe place for your child and others to come talk and share life. If your teen starts telling you about what’s going on at school or the trouble some friends are getting into, don’t panic! Keep the communication lines open and be there to ask good questions. Stay cool, calm and collected but don’t be “too cool” to set rules and boundaries for your children.

How could you apply these rules to your family? Are there any other rules you have used to keep your teenagers safe during the Summer? We hope you will share them with us and have a safe, fun Summer Break!

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.
The Best/Worst Time of the Year

The Best/Worst Time of the Year

Summer is upon us! Depending on your perspective, this can be the best/worst time of year for an adult in the life of a student. Over the next few weeks, you might see more joyous posts on Instagram from teachers with more trepidatious thoughts from parents. But for the student, this can also be the best/worst time as well. 

You see, for many students this time of year means freedom. They can sleep until noon (or 3), not be bothered with homework and other expectations, and generally just be free to do what they want. This freedom comes with an unburdening of sorts and a place to just “breathe”. 

Yet for others, this time away from school comes with a subconscious “dread” of sorts. This might seem strange, but go with me on this. I’ve worked with a lot of students who “hint” at their anxieties of having too much free time. They know when the structures and accountabilities of school are removed, they are more likely to make poor choices and get off track. This is rarely stated explicitly, but is more implied. 

We as a community who love students need to take notice. 

I’m not saying we need to create all kinds of programs and structures to keep kids busy. Our kids are busy enough. Summer is a welcomed time to get away from the often overbearing systems that can weigh students down. 

However, we also need to understand that there are students in this world who thrive on the structure and expectations local school districts provide. The great work teachers and administrators do on a daily basis afford a framework for students to thrive, especially when their home life is chaotic and devoid of structure. 

In general, I think the absence of something can highlight significance. When we lose a loved one, we gain a deeper understanding of their impact and significance on our lives. When we walk away from something, we see all of the ways we were blessed by it. 

School is no different. While teenagers will gripe and complain about having to be there, you will find a sense of appreciation about school when it isn’t there. They miss their friends, teachers, and learning – even though many would never admit to that. 

So, why am I posting this? Are you expecting 5 good tips to keep teens busy this summer? Sorry, I don’t have that for you today. 

But what I do have is a “thank you” for our teachers and administrators. 

Thank you for standing on the front lines of education, culture, social norms, and future-making. I cannot think of a place where the entire world intersects for teenagers like their local schools. And, you guys have to create a space where all of these things interact and function in a healthy way. 

This is an impossible job, but you keep showing up day after day to love these kids and show them a better future. If I might say this, you are doing God’s work in this world, and as we see the absence of this work for a few months, we are reminded of the impact of your tireless service to students. 

So, thank you. Thank you for dealing with the impossible teenager and their impossible parents from time to time. Thank you for being on the forefront of “culture wars” and having mud thrown at you for trying to do the right thing. Thank you for enduring politics and confusing state laws to give a student some kind of hope for the future. 

For those who work at schools, you are loved and appreciated. Stay with it. Don’t quit. You make a difference, and your influence wouldn’t be the same doing anything else. 

Enjoy your rest. Your students will miss you, but I am thinking you might miss them a little also. 

See you in August.

Chris Robey, Teen Lifeline’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.