Helping Students Find Hope in Hopelessness

Helping Students Find Hope in Hopelessness

A few weeks back, I was sitting with some students from a really tough part of our city and working through some of their resources. Part of our groups involve identifying and building up the student’s sense of courage, connectedness, self worth, and capability. What we noticed with this group is a general lack of self-reported capability. This seemed to be the trend throughout the group of young men. This was a strange happening in my experience. Generally, a group of young men will tend to overstate their courage and capability from a place of machismo or even lack of self-esteem. It’s a coping mechanism everyone uses from time to time to protect us from being real with each other. Yet for some reason, these young men decided to stop with the charade. Several of these young men were facing criminal charges as adolescents and were in a general “holding pattern” as they awaited what their PO (parole officer) or presiding judge had to say about their case. They felt like they had no real recourse and that the mistakes they made would follow them for the rest of their lives. These young men were between the ages of 15 and 17, and at this early age, they were experiencing something reserved for people typically much older – hopelessness. This hopelessness echoes from their upbringing, family structure, and their neighborhood. It’s a general sense that no matter what happens, they are doomed to the same cycle they have seen over and over again. My guess is this hopelessness has been ingrained earlier than my arrival into their lives. So...
How to Stop Teens from Confiding in You

How to Stop Teens from Confiding in You

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to encourage teenagers to have meaningful relationships with adults. We talk about who they are close to and who they can go to for help. I love encouraging them to find adults that they can confide in and who will speak truth into their lives. Unfortunately, when we talk about parents, teachers, and other adults, students often say something along the lines of, “I can never tell them anything because…(fill in the blank).” Some of this can be attributed to those teenage years when many students want to separate themselves from adults as much as possible. However, there are also many adults who are acting (probably unintentionally) in a way that insures teenagers will never talk to them about anything serious/important.   Here are a few ways that you can make sure teenagers never confide in you: Tell them that they are just being dramatic. Teens have a flair for the dramatic – we know this. However, when they are sharing something important and personal, that is not the time to point out those dramatic tendencies. If they are sharing feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide, always take that seriously. First, make them feel validated in their feelings, and then you can ask more questions to determine what the next step should be. I’m sure you would rather be on the safe side of believing them and getting help, rather than blowing it off and having to get help after something bad has already happened.   Be dramatic when they tell you something.  While you can’t tell them...
Find the Right Resource Now

Find the Right Resource Now

Since Teen Lifeline began in 2008, it has been part of our task to know what resources are out there, connect to them, evaluate them and share them with the people that need them. In spite of our efforts and the efforts of those around us, it is still difficult, especially in times of great need (crisis), to know where to get those resources. This is why I still hear school counselors say, “When (it) happened, we didn’t know who to call.” It is also why parents share the same sentiment. I believe the core reason for this is that in times of crisis or even just an extended adrenaline rush, our brains are trying to access information that we have not spent time inputting into our brain. Once I realized this for myself, I began to make some changes in the kinds of information I chose to intake. I decided to begin consuming the information I may need in a crisis or simply a difficult situation so that my brain could recall it when I needed it. If my brain couldn’t recall it, I wanted to be able to know where to look or who to call. The fact is, if you are a school counselor or a parent or a youth worker of any kind, and you talk to a teen dealing with a difficult issue or who is in crisis, and Google “teen counseling” or “teen in crisis,” you will get hundreds of millions of hits. Where do you go from there? Here are some of the places that I would suggest starting, and I would suggest...
About the Christmas Truce of 1914 and Saying “Yes”

About the Christmas Truce of 1914 and Saying “Yes”

I’m taking the long way around on today’s post, but stick with me.  Over the last few weeks I have been listening to a podcast called “Hardcore History” which covers World War I. Being a grandchild of a soldier in World War II and living in Germany for a few years, I know a lot more about the second war than the first. I’d highly recommend the podcast, but let me warn you – it is super long. The host is quite verbose and detailed, but I feel like it adds to the charm. What I never realized about the first World War was the level of senseless human carnage. This was a war which bridged the gap between the Old World and the Modern era, especially when it came to warfare. Before this war, most battlefronts involved horses, rifles, and bayonets. This war introduced machine guns, massive artillery, tanks, and poison gas. The world had never seen anything like it. This war introduced what would be known as “trench warfare”. Soldiers on either side would dig long trenches and fortify their positions with barbed wire, booby traps, and machine guns. So any attempt on an offensive move would result in thousands upon thousands of casualties. This became a war of attrition. In other words, each side simply hoped to kill more men than the other hoping one would eventually succumb. But this never happened. Generals would spend lives like money knowing there would just be more men behind them to take up the cause and give their lives. Many men from all over the world were thrown into...
7 Kids Isn’t For You

7 Kids Isn’t For You

Occasionally, I am privileged to speak to a group of teenaged parents. I appreciate these opportunities because I can’t imagine being a high school student and a parent. Just being a parent is hard enough. When introducing myself, one of the things I choose to do is to tell the group that my wife and I have 4 kids at our house. I then show a picture of 7 kids (see below) and explain that for the time being we have 3 extra kids living with us. Who they are and why is for another time. I usually say something to the effect of, “I don’t recommend having 7 kids. It isn’t for everyone.” And I mean it. What inevitably happens when I show 7 kids on the screen as I am teaching a class on internet and social media is that some assumptions are made. I do not want one of these assumptions to be that we have it all together. Because often, we don’t.   So what do I want them to hear? My hope is that when I say, “7 kids isn’t for everyone,” people understand that I am trying to change their perspective in a positive way. First of all, we have to be careful comparing what we see of others to what we know to be true about ourselves. If we aren’t careful, we can cripple ourselves because we look around and assume those doing hard things have it figured out and why can’t we. The reality is, most times they have’t figured out any more then we have, and they are probably looking at you...
About the Power of Your Bad Day

About the Power of Your Bad Day

About a year ago, our communications director, Karlie Duke, brought us a great idea for our groups. While I don’t believe she would claim this idea as original to her, the concept is really simple and effective. It is called “Fist to Five”. So we ask a question like – “How is your day going?”, or “How do you feel about yourself today?”. Then, the students answer with anything between a “fist” (bad) to “five” (the best). This gives us a baseline to have conversations about where they are and what could be better. And simply, it offers a great way to check in on how the student’s week is going. But there is something else here which holds power. One of the things we ask all of our facilitators to do during their groups is to participate in the activity themselves. That is, if they ask a question or put an activity out asking students to be vulnerable in some way, you as a facilitator should be wiling to do the same. So when we do the “fist to five” activity, our facilitators participate as well. In many ways, it is a yielding of power. So many adults ask students to behave or respond in a way that is not being modeled by the adult. We ask students to study, read, walk the straight line, and follow stringent rules while sometimes we don’t show them what it looks like. We expect them to figure it out. This is no different when it comes to vulnerability. Many who are in the helping profession with students (and I guess parents...