(This post is part of a series from a weekend hosted by The Hills Church of Christ called Renew. You can find it and other posts targeted at making a difference in the world by visiting the linked websites above.)
Things are bad, real bad. We see more of the bad in the world today than at any point in history. With 24 hour news and social media reporting every thing that happens within seconds, it is impossible to get away from the negative. People in poor nations see what it’s like too have to much. American teens think they deserve a diploma, degree, or job.
I have often said I would not want to be a teenager today. School is harder, families are broken, the future is uncertain. Stress is higher today for most of us than it has been in a long time or maybe ever.
Generally the outlook on life is just plain bad.
Or is it??
As we listen to teens in our support groups, we find they are embracing their world. Stressed? Certainly. Confused? Absolutely. And yet they are embracing the world they live in. This embrace contributes to much of the stress and confusion. They are recognizing that life is not fair and there are a lot of injustices in the world. The problem is they don’t know what to do with what they see. They have the energy and momentum to make things right; they simply lack direction much of the time.
This is where Teen Lifeline comes in. Our support groups offer a safe place where teens can be heard. We listen and offer a new perspective. We talk about resources, stress management, goal setting, and positive relationships. Our goal is to offer them resources and support to make their world a better place.
One example of this happened in our teen parents program. I was leading a discussion about parenting skills and the group told me no one had talked to them about parenting skills. Seriously? Honestly, I was not that surprised but it was definitely something that needed to be corrected. Since then we have been focusing on parenting skills to help them parent in ways that will positively shape their kids.
In our support groups, teens often express how unhappy they are with how their parents handle things. This is not new, I felt the same way at times. What they need though is to take steps toward something better. If they don’t, it will be too easy to fall into the same pattern. Teens need to know there are good options and how to move toward them.
Will you consider partnering with us as we try to meet kids and students where they are and use the momentum they bring to help them have a life lived better?
Since I began working with teens I have observed how they see things. Unfortunately it is not that different then how we see them as adults. We tend to focus on the negative aspect of a situation which leaves us frustrated, stressed, and many times unable to move.
In conversations when I have been able to talk through how a scenario will be presented I always recommend a similar action. Start with a positive. This can change a whole conversation. Obviously there are no guarantees for how a person will hear what you say but you want to present the best possible perspective regardless of how bad things really are. Here’s how to do that.
Evaluate the situation:
Write down or think about what you know. Don’t dwell on the unknown or what you think might happen. Even if it is an educated guess there is at least a small chance the outcome will be very different.
Come up with possible solutions:
Sometimes the answer is out of your hands but discovering solutions to the problem shows you are invested in and willing to work on figuring out what needs to happen.
Approach the person or people with the positive first:
Here’s an example. You could say, “I know you are not going to like what I’m going to tell you. You will probably get really mad and punish me.” and then tell them the news. The alternative to this is “I have something tough to tell you but I wanted you to hear it from me and know I have some ideas for how to work it out….” then fill them in. This is a much more positive way to handle sharing difficult news. It lets the person know you value them enough to tell them yourself and that you are not expecting them to come up with a solution on their own. You are telling them up front you are invested in helping correct the error.
This type of approach can be applied to many different situations. Telling a boss about a project gone bad, a teen telling their parents they are pregnant, telling the person you borrowed the car from you wrecked it. It is up to you but the next time you are faced with the responsibility to communicate a tough message think about how you could start with a positive.
This is just one way to handle a tough situation, what is a way you have seen that works well?
I had the opportunity to attend a town hall meeting last week in Southlake featuring a presentation by Grant Halliburton. The idea was to start a conversation with the community on how to help teens dealing with all sorts of issues.
This particular event, hosted by S.P.A.R.K.(Students and Parents Against Risks to Kids), was prompted by students at Carroll Senior High. They had a close friend die by suicide. This prompted them to seek out help for themselves and their peers.
This video from NBCDFW explains a little more.
A problem as big as this has many pieces to the solution. The students decided they wanted an event but more importantly an ongoing answer to where to get help. This is where we came in.
The presenter for Grant Halliburton was Vanita Halliburton, mother to Grant for whom the foundation was started. She did a great job of outlining warning signs as well as suggestions for addressing these issues. These tools are invaluable to parents and I would encourage you to visit their website to read more or contact us for a brochure with more details.
The thing that stood out to me toward the end of her presentation was a list of ways to help prevent suicidal thoughts. These included exercise, eating right, sleep, even sunshine. I don’t know if her list was in a particular order but number 1 was Connectedness.
This stuck out to me for 3 reasons. Reasons that drive much of what we do in our support groups. These help us stay focused. Seeing it in a list to help prevent suicide reinforced the importance of being connected.
1. Connectedness effects us every day. There are multiple examples of this and I don’t have time to cover them all here but here are a couple of them I think matter.
- Connection to the right people.
- Connection to the wrong people.
- Connection to something meaningful.
- Connection to a way to grow.
2. Connectedness opens our eyes to a bigger picture. Getting out & connecting helps us see that there are others struggling too. Then we can begin to find solutions and move forward.
3. Connectedness allows us to better other peoples lives. The Teen Lifeline slogan is Life Lived Better. If we never connect with teenagers in need of this hope, we cease to exist. For students this can be an affirmation of why they are alive. Not only do they need people but people need them.
Now the conversation has been started. It is up to us as a community in Southlake, in Tarrant County, in the DFW Metroplex, in Texas and beyond to connect and make a difference by helping and inviting help.
What connections do you have that I don’t? Part of getting connected is sharing resources. Check our resource page for places we recommend then take time to comment and tell us who else we need to connect with.
Here at Teen Lifeline we wanted to take a moment to let you know how things have gone this past year and that we are excited about the upcoming opportunities 2013 holds. We are extremely grateful for the support we have received in many ways. Through donations both financial and in-kind, volunteer hours, services offered, resources shared, and more we have been blessed and been empowered to bless the lives of more teenagers this year than ever before!
Though some of you got a letter informing you of what this year has held for Teen Lifeline, I wanted to recap a few things and put them on our blog to make it easy for you to share.
Regardless, here are just a few of the things we are excited about from this year:
- We had our 4th annual Family Fun Run/Walk 5K. It was our best one yet. You can read more about it on our website or see pictures on Facebook.
- This year we have been able to work with over 500 students. That is 200 more than last year. We are so excited about building relationships with students and helping them make better choices.
- New opportunities for helping students have come our way in the form of some crisis situations. Not glad these things happened but we are glad we could be there to help. We also have been able to go back to working with the North Richland Hills Juvenile Court. In addition we are exploring new possibilities in other courts and schools.
Of course the real excitement is seeing students make decisions that will change their life. The above picture is from our Teen Parents Christmas Party where about 40 parents and kids were served by our amazing TL Board. We enjoyed dinner and thanks to some amazing donations had the chance for each family to get multiple gifts for their kiddos. Everyone was so excited!
As part of the evening I let the parents know about resources available to them at The Hills Church of Christ. Parenting Classes and an upcoming Men’s Conference with Jon Kitna. As people were getting ready to leave 4 or 5 of the dads wanted to talk to me specifically about the Men’s Conference. What an amazing opportunity to get to tell them how Jon will share his faith and wisdom on how to life a better life. Of course I also emphasized that they would have the opportunity to eat some great food and play games.
We thank God for times like this when we see how our efforts really can make an impact. We are excited that we have been blessed financially this past year. Though this is true, we rely on continuing financial support for us to keep helping students make better choices.
As this year comes to a close it is a great time to donate toward our 2012 budget. We have almost reached our goal of $20,000 this end of year to help cover the expenses related to providing resources and support for teens. Would you help us get there with a one-time gift? Or if you prefer to help with our future vision and goals we are looking for monthly supporters. These funds will support our new full-time Program Director and his efforts to expand our programs as well as new opportunities to help students that we hope to share early next year.
Donating is simple. You can go to our Giving page or click on the link below. Both PayPal and Razoo should allow you to make a one-time donation or set up a recurring amount that works for you. (If you prefer you can also mail us a check at 6250 NE Loop 820, N. Richland Hills, TX 76180.)
May you have a blessed holiday season and I pray 2013 is full of ways for you to live life better!