Ep. 65: Talking with Teens about Hope

Ep. 65: Talking with Teens about Hope

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Summary:
Summer is a great time to start conversations with your teen! Use the extra time with them while they are home to get curious and ask open-ended questions.

To help, we’ve designed this series to be a quick, fun way to get everyone talking. Listen together with your teen, or by yourself. You might be surprised at how willing teenagers are to talk when they get started!

In episode 65, Chris and Kelly talk about hope as an indicator of mental health and ways to foster hope in your life.

Question:
How much hope do you have for the future?

Talk through these with your teen after this podcast ends!

  • What’s one good thing in your life right now?
  • How optimistic do you feel about the future?
  • Where would you like to get involved/volunteer?

In this episode, we mentioned or used 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.

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Digital Media Manager

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind. She’s been refining messages and telling stories for brands and non-profits since 2009.

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Ep. 46: The Importance of Hope & War

Ep. 46: The Importance of Hope & War

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Summary:
Hope is one of the top indicators of mental health, but for many teens it can feel out of reach. Chris and Karlie share practical ideas for encouraging and teaching teens to be hopeful. They also take a look at social media’s effect on how teens see war and how they filter news sources. Don’t miss these useful tips for talking about the war in the Ukraine with teens. Be sure to listen to the end for this week’s tip on identifying triggers, too!

In this episode, we mentioned or used 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 has always had a heart for teenagers and the vulnerable life stage they are in. She has a wealth of experience to share from working with teens in ministry and leading support groups.

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Death of “Future Me”

Death of “Future Me”

Recently I stumbled upon a short podcast series by the New York Times entitled “Odessa”, which chronicles the physical re-opening of Odessa High School out in West Texas after the shutdowns of the spring and early fall of 2020. The series focuses on the marching band and the many struggles they faced as Odessa faced a COVID surge on top of school reopening.

In a later episode of the series, a student introduced in the first episode starts to exhibit a significant change in behaviors. A teenager once vibrant and socially active suddenly fell off the map. She stopped attending school, returning texts, and showing up to band practice. While those who knew and loved her made sure she was safe, otherwise she became completely disengaged.

After a while the interviewer was able to connect with this student and it was interesting to hear how she was doing. She said overall she was fine, but just wanted to be alone. In fact, her and many other students reported the same. They didn’t seem to be depressed or anxious, but they also didn’t really want to engage in any meaningful way with their friends or adults.

Also recently I read a really compelling article that got me thinking about stories like the one above, and even my own story in a way. The article cited a psychologist who explored aspects of consciousness and he divided our experiences as being either in the “experiencing self” or the “remembering self”. That is, the present moment and about 5 seconds before and after are what we experience. But we also have another “self” that is in the past telling us stories about times already gone. He did a lot of work in understanding how our two senses of “self” interplay with each other and how we need to be aware of how much noise each “self” is making.

Yet, this article expanded this framework to include what she called the “anticipating self”. That is, the part of us that hopes, dreams, and expects. Typically the “anticipating self” is a bit more optimistic about things and hopes for the future to be just a little better. The author posits that it is this “self” that drives us to make positive changes and choices.

We choose to eat better because we hope for better health.

We save our money because we envision ourselves being financially secure.

We make the better, harder choices so tomorrow will find us in a stronger position.

In other words, our “anticipating self” is the driving force to make better choices.

I think about this teenager featured in the “Odessa” podcast. As the episode ended, several school counselors were interviewed about the behavior of this student and those like her.

They said they had lost all motivation. No hope for the future. Anything beyond today became fuzzy or opaque.

In other words, their “anticipating self” was incapacitated.

If you know much about adolescence, you know that the “anticipating self” is a new developmental tool available to teenagers as they enter those early teen years. Children don’t often dream about what’s going to happen to them in 10 years. But as adolescence settles in, thinking about tomorrow becomes more of an option. I call this a new “tool” because often adolescents don’t use this tool, even if it is available to them.

This pandemic has caused so much uncertainty to the developing mind of an adolescent that they choose to silence the “anticipating self”. This last year has been so hard that thinking about anything positive for the future feels like a fools errand.

I believe this is why we are seeing such a surge in mental health issues with teenagers. When there is no real future, no real reason to engage with our “anticipating self”, then what is the reason to engage or even, hope?

As I work with teenagers these days, I’m especially mindful of helping them talk about the future in a positive light. And, it’s incredible to see how they respond. Often, they have forgotten that a positive future is even a possibility.

Because, it is. Let’s do everything we can to help teenagers engage with their “anticipating self”. What if, instead of engaging in the doom and gloom of this moment, we helped students anticipate what could be better or different? What if we rejected the notion that things are only going to get worse?

Let’s revive our anticipating selves.

 

 

For more tips on helping teens look for hope, check out this recent post.

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.

The Quest for Hope

The Quest for Hope

This week is HOPE Week at my kids’ school put on by their HOPE Squads. For my elementary aged students, it’s a week of dressing up and having some extra fun in the classroom while talking about how to be kind and caring to others. For my middle schooler, the idea is similar but slightly more advanced. At her school, they are talking about having hope and looking for others who might need some hope or who are displaying signs of depression and/or suicidal ideation. Talking about hope and planning for dress up days with my children has really made me think about the quest for hope.

Hope is defined by Dictionary.com as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best: to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence: to believe, desire, or trust: or to place trust; rely.”

As the pandemic continues, the research has indicated that students are struggling – they are lacking hope that life will return to normal post pandemic. While it’s too early to definitively link increased anxiety, depression, and suicide rates directly to the pandemic, the early numbers continue to show that the rates for these and other mental health crises is on the rise among our students. (See related articles here, here, and here.)

So how do we, as adults working with students or with our own children, look for and point to hope as we continue to navigate life in a unique season? A few ideas.

  1. Start by admitting hope is hard to find some days. It’s normal to feel sad or mad and helping the students in our lives normalize these feelings is so important. They are not on an island alone.
  2.  Talk to students about self-care. Ask what are students doing to take care of themselves on hard days? It can be reading, playing games, watching tv, listening to music, or writing. Talking in advance about positive ways to handle stress empowers you as an adult to encourage them to utilize these ideas as the need arises.
  3. Encourage connections. Where are the places your child can interact with peers and adults in a season with many limitations?
  4. Identify places you see hope and talk about them. Even our oldest students are watching and looking to us as the adults. If you are excited about something, share it. If you are able to see how a struggle turned out for the best, talk about it.

As always, if you need help – seek it out. Support groups, counseling, crisis lines. This applies not only to our students, but to us as adults. Your students and children are watching and will know if you are struggling too. They also learn how to ask for help by watching you and me.

Searching for hope can’t last only a week at school. It has to be a day in, and day out endeavor for all of us. As Andy tells Red in the classic movie Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, may be the best of the things. And no good thing ever dies.” May you find hope this week in the midst of the chaos.

Beth Nichols

Beth Nichols

Director of Operations

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. 

The Unexpected Loss of a Parent with Malaya Bizaillion

The Unexpected Loss of a Parent with Malaya Bizaillion

 

We all dread the unexpected – we worry, plan, and avoid it at all costs.

In the first episode of this series, we are talking to Malaya Bizaillion about life after the unexpected happens. At just 9 years old, Malaya lost her mom, Jenny Ross Bizaillion, following an unexpected illness that took her life only 19 days after going to the hospital. Now as a graduating senior in high school, Malaya shares her story with grace and wisdom. Malaya gives hope in the midst of loss and is an incredible voice for teenagers who are living life in the midst of the expected burden of loss.

We talk about grief, heavenly birthdays, grace, and how adults can be helpful.

If you have experienced the loss of parent, or are walking through life with a teen who has a similar experience, this is the podcast for you! We invite you to join our conversation with Malaya Bizaillion.

 

 

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Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Malaya Bizaillion is 18 and a senior in high school. She will be attending Abilene Christian University in the fall of 2018 to major in Social Work. She is so excited to see what the Lord has in store!

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!