Unlocking the Power of Support Groups

Unlocking the Power of Support Groups

Every teen should participate in a Support Group. Here’s why.

As parents and educators, we are acutely aware of the myriad of challenges that today’s teenagers face. From academic pressures to social dynamics and mental health concerns, teenagers are navigating murky and turbulent waters. Most of the teenagers we know are looking for hope and connection. Whether they come from difficult places or fantastic families, teenagers are struggling to find places where they feel accepted for who they are, and Teen Life Support Groups offer exactly that.

But what exactly are these Support Groups, and why should we encourage our teens to join them?

What’s the big deal about Teen Life Support Groups?

Teen Life Support Groups are safe, supportive spaces where adolescents can share their experiences and learn from one another. It’s essential to note that these groups are not therapy—and this distinction is crucial. Here’s why:

Combatting the Stigma of Therapy

Despite growing awareness around mental health, there remains a stigma associated with therapy. Many teens and parents hesitate to seek therapeutic help due to fears of judgment or labeling. Support groups, on the other hand, are perceived differently. They are seen as peer-driven and less formal, making it easier for teens to participate without feeling stigmatized.

 

One of our favorite more recent stories from Support Groups came from a girl who knew she needed help but didn’t know how to get it.

After an 8-week Support Group, she knew that her friends needed what she had found. She was so determined to get the same help for her friends that she pursued an adult who she thought would make a great facilitator.

It turned out she was right. Several of her friends were struggling with suicidal thoughts, and because they were placed in a Support Group, the school staff and the facilitator were able to intervene in a positive, life-changing way.

Convenient Scheduling During School Hours

One of the significant advantages of Support Groups is their timing. These sessions usually occur during school hours, fitting seamlessly into a student’s day. This convenience means teens are more likely to attend and benefit from these sessions without additional travel or time commitments after school, making participation hassle-free and more appealing. For many of the teens we see, this is a deciding factor in getting help that could change or even save their lives.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) agrees.

Recently, they released a guide for promoting mental health and well-being in schools. In it, they outline ways that schools can create systems for early prevention and detection of mental health concerns and ways to teach students the social skills they need to thrive. It can seem overwhelming for teachers and counselors to tackle something like that alone, but Teen Life offers a ready structure and curriculum that meets many, if not all, of the listed practices.

Photo of a groups of teens smiling and laughing together on a bench

Solution-Focused Curriculum

Our curriculum is rooted in solution-focused therapy principles. This approach empowers teens by helping them identify harmful patterns and understand their consequences. More importantly, it equips them with practical steps to forge a better path forward. Through guided discussions and activities, teens learn to set goals, develop coping strategies, and build resilience, all within a supportive peer environment.

Solution Focused

Benefits for Teachers and Counselors

While the direct benefits to students are evident, the positive ripple effects on teachers and counselors are equally significant:

Educators can share the burden of meeting their students’ needs.

The reality is that there are too many teens in need of help for teachers and counselors to support them all adequately. According to NAMI, one in six kids aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, but only 50% receive help. School staff are often stretched thin, trying to provide individual attention amidst their numerous responsibilities. Support groups can bridge this gap, offering a collective support system where teens can receive the help they need.

A collaborative support system benefits everyone.

When teens participate in support groups, they bring back improved coping mechanisms and a better understanding of their behaviors into the classroom. This positive change can make classroom management easier and enhance the overall learning environment. What’s more, support groups build community among students, reducing bullying and social isolation overall, but also improving students’ resilience when they are provoked. We’ve heard from many teachers and counselors who say they love Groups because they see fewer negative behaviors to manage during and after students have participated.

Encourage Participation

To maximize the benefits of Teen Life support groups, it’s crucial for parents and educators to actively encourage participation. Here are a few strategies:

  • Promote Awareness
    Educate teens and parents about the nature and benefits of support groups. Sharing the concepts covered in the curriculum and clarifying that these are not therapy sessions can help reduce resistance. Support groups truly are for ALL types of students!
  • Facilitate Access
    Work with schools to integrate support group sessions into the regular school schedule. Make sure the times are convenient for students, even if that means missing class. Trust us, the overall benefits far outweigh the costs.
  • Engage and Support
    Encourage open communication about the experiences and benefits of support groups. Celebrate the successes and progress of participants to motivate others to join. In our experience, students become the greatest advocates of support groups once they experience one for themselves!

 

Together, we can create a healthier, more supportive environment for all our students.

It’s easier than you might think to get started!

Contact us for more details on our online training or bringing Support Groups to your school.

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Digital Media Manager

More Resources You Might Like

The CDC recommends that schools take action to educate teens on improving their mental health. Support Groups are a great solution!
Episode 126 - Teen Support Groups & the X App
A gorilla and a grizzly bear

Follow Us

Classroom Environment + Food Dyes | Ep. 156

Classroom Environment + Food Dyes | Ep. 156

 Listen & Subscribe

YouTube

Creating a welcoming classroom environment sets the tone.

In episode 156 of the Teen Life Podcast, we explore the significance of fostering a welcoming environment not just in the classroom, but in Support Groups or church small groups.

In our journey to create spaces where teens feel valued and supported, every detail matters. Let’s delve into some actionable tips that can make a difference in shaping the atmosphere of our gatherings.

Setting the Stage

Whether in a classroom, a church or a support group, the environment plays a crucial role in shaping the atmosphere of our gatherings.

Here are a few tips to consider:

Set Up Ahead of Time

Arriving to a well-prepared space can make a world of difference. Whether it’s arranging chairs in a circle for open discussion or laying out materials for an activity, being ready ahead of time shows that you value the time and presence of your teens.

Bring a Treat

Who doesn’t love a surprise snack or treat? It’s a simple gesture that can instantly lift spirits and create a sense of warmth. I once had a teacher who would pass out slices of white bread before our sessions, and while it might sound unusual, it never failed to bring a smile to our faces. Sometimes, it’s the quirky gestures that leave a lasting impression!

Try Conscious Discipline

Incorporating principles of conscious discipline can further enhance the environment by promoting emotional regulation, empathy, and positive relationships. Consider integrating activities or discussions that encourage self-awareness and respectful communication.

Why It Matters

Creating a welcoming environment isn’t just about making people feel comfortable; it’s about setting the stage for meaningful connection and engagement. When teens feel valued and safe, they’re more likely to participate actively and authentically in discussions and activities. Moreover, it cultivates a sense of belonging, which is essential for their social and emotional well-being.

Your Role as a Leader

As adults, we have the power to influence the atmosphere of our groups before anyone even walks through the door. By embodying warmth, positivity, and genuine interest in our teens’ lives, we can set the tone for a productive and enjoyable experience. Remember, your enthusiasm and presence matter more than you might realize!

In conclusion, creating a welcoming environment for teens goes beyond just saying hello at the door. It’s about being intentional in every aspect of our interactions and surroundings. So, as you prepare for your next gathering, keep these tips in mind and watch how they transform the atmosphere for the better.

In this episode, we mentioned or used the following resources about creating a positive classroom environment and food dyes.

Also in this episode:

  • What’s the deal with food dyes and do they cause behavioral issues?
  • Why are teens using the Chinese app, Little Red Book,  to ask people abroad for style, health and dating advice?

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

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Tobin Hodges

Tobin Hodges

Program Director

Caleb Hatchett

Caleb Hatchett

Podcast Host

Follow Us

More Resources You Might Like

Fanfiction + School Absence Ep. 147
Ep. 119 Diverse Families- Multi-Cultural/Multiracial Families
Happy multi-ethnic family at the beach smiling at the camera

126: Teen Support Groups & X App

126: Teen Support Groups & X App

 Listen & Subscribe

YouTube

The Power of Support Groups: Why They Matter and How You Can Make a Difference

Support groups play a crucial role in our society, providing individuals with a safe space to connect, share, and heal. But it can be complicated for teens to find an appropriate group. Costs can be prohibitive, timing is hard with busy school schedules, and the stigma of anything mental health related can sometimes be an issue. Especially at such a sensitive time of life.

So let’s delve into why our Teen Support Groups are different from what you might think, why they are so effective, and how you can contribute to this vital cause.

But first, let’s understand the essence of Support Groups.

What are Support Groups?

Teen Life Support Groups offer teens a safe place to talk with peers about what is going on in their lives under the guidance of a trusted adult. Our facilitators are community volunteers who have been vetted and trained to be good listeners and guides.

Because Teen Life Support Groups focus on forward-reaching solutions and skills, they are not therapy and should not be considered as such. This actually makes them more accessible and less intimidating to most teens.

In these groups, students will learn life skills that will help them deal with stress, relationships, school, and more.

 

Our curriculum helps teens learn to manage stress and make decisions based on the future they want. So teenagers come away with stronger self-discipline and a better grasp on where they are and how they can improve- academically, socially, and within their family.

 

Whether there is a specific issue they are facing or they just need someone understanding to talk to, teens will leave with resources that will help them face life’s challenges.

Our groups also take place during the school day on school campuses. We have found that students are more invested and consistent when they don’t have to leave school to participate.

 

Why do Support Groups work?

  1. Connection to Peers
    One of the most significant advantages of support groups is the sense of belonging they provide. Participants often find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their struggles. Connecting with peers who have faced similar challenges can reduce feelings of isolation and increase empathy.
  2. Connection to an Adult
    For young individuals, support groups can bridge the gap between their experiences and the guidance of an adult. They offer a unique opportunity for adolescents to connect with older individuals who have valuable life experience and can serve as mentors. One caring adult can change a teenagers life.
  3. An Easy Entry to Therapy or Counseling
    Support groups can act as a gateway to professional help. Many individuals are more willing to seek therapy or counseling after experiencing the benefits of sharing their feelings and challenges within a supportive group environment.
  4. Life Skills
    Support groups often provide practical guidance on coping mechanisms and life skills. Participants can learn effective strategies for dealing with their specific issues, empowering them to navigate life’s challenges more successfully.
  5. Hope
    Perhaps the most powerful aspect of support groups is the infusion of hope. When teens feel connected and know that they aren’t alone in their struggle, they are better able to see beyond it.

What can you do?

  • Donate
    Consider contributing to Teen Life. Your financial support gives the gift of hope to teens.
  • Volunteer
    Becoming facilitator is a meaningful way to get involved. Our schools Support Groups rely on dedicated volunteers to facilitate Groups. We hear over and over what a life-changing experience it is for the facilitator and the Group!
  • Advocate for Support Groups at Your School
    If you’re a student or a parent, advocate for the implementation of Support Groups within your school or educational institution. These groups can make a significant difference in the lives of young individuals at no cost to the school or the students.
Serving teenagers does not ever mean feeling like you have to relate to teenagers because that’s a moving target.
We encourage you not to feel like you have to relate but to be curious. Connect through curiosity!
Chris Robey

Also in this episode

Twitter becomes X

In July, Twitter underwent a significant transformation, rebranding itself as the “X App,” a move attributed to none other than Elon Musk. The platform introduced a new logo resembling a cracked screen with an X at its center.

Elon Musk explained this shift by stating, “The Twitter name made sense when it was just 140 character messages going back and forth – like birds tweeting – but now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video. In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world.”

While these changes are still in their early stages, it’s possible that we may witness the emergence of shopping features and paid subscriptions on the X App in the future. Stay tuned for more updates!

In this episode, we mentioned or used the following resources about teen support groups and the X App

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

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Follow Us

More Resources You Might Like

Episode 125 - Screen Apnea & Summer Recap 2023
Episode 124 Connecting with Students & Spicy Books
Helping Teens Struggling in School

A Gorilla in the Weight Room

A Gorilla in the Weight Room

One of my favorite icebreakers to do in my Teen Life Support Groups in the final weeks of our curriculum is something I call “Gorilla vs. Grizzly”.

The premise is simple: who would win in a battle between a Grizzly Bear and a Silverback Gorilla?

Now, you might have an instant strong opinion on this hypothetical fight, and you wouldn’t be alone. Once we introduce this scenario, there are instant ideological lines drawn in the sand between students on who would win this epic showdown between two of nature’s alphas.

Before I go any further, it should be stated that this is only a scenario. There is no ethical setting in which this experiment would ever play out. They are from two completely different native habitats separated by thousands of miles of ocean water. So remember, this is just a thought experiment.

Yet students take this VERY seriously. And to be fair, I ask them to. In fact, I go so far as to ask for evidence to support their positions. So for instance, if they insist a gorilla would make short work of a grizzly bear, they need to provide solid reasoning as to why they feel this way.

And, boy do they offer evidence. Lots of it. In the years that I have done this activity, I’ve heard so many compelling arguments on how each one of these animals might win in a battle. I’ve heard very few ideas that haven’t passed muster. In other words, it’s not hard to see why each one of these animals might win.

But what is striking to me is the answers these students give. Here are a few examples. Pro Grizzly:

  • Sheer size
  • Sharp claws
  • Pointy teeth
  • Huge paws
  • Thick skin
  • Savage nature

Pro Gorilla:

  • Huge muscles
  • Superior intelligence
  • Opposable thumbs on hands and feet
  • Fast
  • Killer instinct

All true, right? All of these traits are used not only to survive fights like this but also to thrive in their respective environments.

But, the next question I pose is the one that brings it all together:

“Guys – have you ever seen a gorilla in the weight room?” Or “Have you seen a grizzly bear in the nail salon getting sharpened up?”

No, of course not! It’s an absurd, even hilarious notion. These animals have these strengths because it is WHO they are.

Grizzlies don’t sharpen their teeth or claws. They don’t take supplements to gain their size.

Gorillas don’t pump iron or do pull-ups. They aren’t vainly looking in the mirror at their biceps!

These incredible works of nature are strong simply because they are. And, we believe that our teenagers are as well.

Simply put, if our adolescents were pointed to their core strengths – the ones they didn’t need to work on – imagine how much better they could solve their problems or take on new challenges.

When we pose this idea of natural strengths to teenagers – especially ones from hard places, they are a little uncomfortable with the idea. For so many it’s inconceivable they could have natural strengths they could lean into, and not worry so much about their deficits.

What if we looked at our teenagers as bearers of great strength and promise and not “problems to be solved”? This is what we are all about here at Teen Life. We believe students are made in the image of God, and if they understood the power of what they have, they would reach great heights.

What would it look like for you to see the strengths of your student first, not where they need to get better? Just like the gorilla in the weight room, we would see how silly it is to doubt how incredible they are just by being themselves.

How does this idea strike you? We would love your feedback in the comments!

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.
Ep. 93: Icebreaker Questions & ChatGPT

Ep. 93: Icebreaker Questions & ChatGPT

 Listen & Subscribe

YouTube

 

Summary:
Do you ever struggle with getting teenagers to open up? Don’t miss these tried-and-true icebreakers to help create an open atmosphere in almost any group. We’ll also discuss one of the latest AI tools to storm the educational world, ChatGPT. We’ll look at the pros and cons and give you follow-up questions for talking with your teens.

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.

Follow Us