Why Empathy Matters

Why Empathy Matters

I often think of the faces and stories of teenagers that I get to work with every week.

Their pain is real. Their success changes lives. Their questions are relevant. Their stories change my perspective.

You may be asking yourself, “How deep can you really go with teenagers when you only see them once a week for an hour? Do they actually share? What could they be dealing with that could rival adult problems?”

You would be shocked.

I can learn more about a teen in a one-hour Support Group meeting than many people can find out over months.

How is this possible?

Empathy.

Empathy makes all the difference in the world. In these Support Groups, we are not asking questions because we want to be nosy, tell them what they are doing wrong, or even fix their lives. We ask questions because we want to step into life with them, even when it’s hard and there is no easy fix in sight.

I absolutely love this Brené Brown video. She expertly describes the difference between empathy and sympathy while revealing the power of showing true empathy in difficult circumstances.

 

 

When you watch the video, you can see that empathy is a powerful tool, especially when dealing with teenagers.

Just this year alone, I have had teenagers tell me about:

  • Broken home lives where they are forced to choose who they want to live with.
  • Families who encourage drug use while they are trying to stay clean.
  • Fathers who bring their mistress into the home while mom tries to keep the family together.
  • 30-hour work weeks to help the family pay medical bills.
  • A fear of graduation because that is when they will be kicked out of their house.
  • Extreme racism and name calling in a work environment.

Do I have the answers to these problems? Can I come up with magic words to make the hurt go away?

Absolutely not!

But I can listen. I can tell them that I am so sorry they are having to deal with such difficult life circumstances. I can sit in a chair beside them and step into their world for an hour a week. I can give them a safe, judgement-free zone to talk about their lives and problems.

I can empathize.

I encourage you to try some of the tactics mentioned in the video and to avoid phrases like “at least.” Step into a teenager’s shoes, crawl down into the pit with them, and show that someone cares and wants to listen.

For us to continue to provide these Support Groups and show empathy, we depend on donors like you.

You can donate, pray, volunteer or simply share our content with a friend!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Heather & Jade Talk Teen Pregnancy

Heather & Jade Talk Teen Pregnancy

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Two stories of teen pregnancy converge

In this re-edited interview from 2016, Chris and Karlie are joined by Heather and Jade to talk about their stories both separately and as they intertwine.

As a young teen mom, Jade was connected with Heather, who offered her much-needed support and encouragement. Heather was able to provide hope and a new perspective through the lens of her own teen pregnancy.

Even 7 years after this interview, it remained one of our top-played episodes.

You won’t want to miss this timeless wisdom on the joys and challenges of teen parenthood.

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • Two different stories about teen pregnancy and parenthood.
  • Ways to support and encourage teen parents.
  • What it is like to be a teen parent while trying to finish school.
  • The importance of mentors and friends in the life of a teen parent.

Ask yourself…

  • Have I sat down and asked someone else’s story lately?
  • How can I better support and encourage a teen parent?
  • Who has made a difference in my own life?

Go ask a teen…

  • Who has supported you the most?
  • What is the biggest joy of being a parent?
  • How can I help support and encourage you?
Advice for teen parents:
  • Get counseling or therapy if you need it.
  • Stay in school!
  • You can do it! There is support out there for you.
  • Your best is good enough.

For people supporting teen parents:
  • Offer to help, and keep offering even when they say no!
  • Be inclusive when you can. It is hard for teen moms to find where they fit and belong.
  • Show up!
  • Let them vent without telling them what to do.
  • Be vulnerable and let them know that you genuinely care about them.

Heather and Jade at our podcast recording to talk about teen pregnancy

Resources for teenage parents:

  • If you or someone you know is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, Pregnancy Help 4 U can help.
  • If you are someone who works with student-aged parents, reach out to program@teenlife.ngo for more information about our Support Group Curriculum designed for teen parents!
  • Original music by Luke Cabrera and Tobin Hodges.

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

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Heather Gradke

Heather Gradke

Special Guest

Jade Rains

Jade Rains

Special Guest

More Resources You Might Like

Teen Pregnancy with Charlotte Smiley
Dating Relationships & Streaming Services
Episode 26: Dating & Suicide Terms

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Ep. 84: 2022 Christmas Gift Guide

Ep. 84: 2022 Christmas Gift Guide

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Summary:

Still looking for the perfect gift for your teenager? You’ll love these great picks that your favorite teen is sure to appreciate. This is a special Christmas episode you won’t want to miss!

In this episode, we mentioned or used the following resources:

Gift Guide For Teen Girls:

Gift Guide for Guys:

Gifts of Experience:

  • Taylor Swift Tickets – good luck!
  • Tickets to see their favorite sports team
  • Guitar or Piano lessons
  • Spotify Subscription
  • Small Road Trip
  • Spa Day
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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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. 

Education and Race with Dr. Jackson

Education and Race with Dr. Jackson

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How to talk about race and education with teenagers and adults

Chris and Karlie talk with intervention counselor Dr. Tishara Jackson about race, and especially how it impacts the education system and our teenagers. Listen for her advice on how to start race conversations, the appropriate language and terminology to use, and how we can educate ourselves.

This podcast episode is full of resources, tips, and a different perspective that is needed. Our schools are not always equal, and no matter the race, teenagers are aware of the racial discussions that are taking place in our country right now. Let’s take a minute to listen and learn how we can have these conversations well to empower the teenagers in our lives!

 

Some of our kids are coming [to school] with more burdens than others.
Dr. Tishara Jackson

Intervention Specialist

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

Dr. Tishara Jackson

Dr. Tishara Jackson

Special Guest

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Follow Us

More Resources You Might Like

TL Selects: Race with Robert Purvey
Ep. 119 Diverse Families- Multi-Cultural/Multiracial Families
Parenting Styles & College Decisions