Connecting with Teens

I’ll admit right up front that working with teens has never been my strong suit.  I’ve always found it difficult to relate to them.   I chalk it up to the fact that I never really went through that “teen angst” phase of life, never really had a rebellious phase -  I actually got along with my parents most of the time.  So, when I worked as a counselor, I always struggled to find the right things to say to teens and to make a connection with them.

I think that is why I have such a deep appreciation for those that have a gift for working with young people.  I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, as we are recognizing Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  I know several people who have dedicated years of their life to working with teens.   But the one person that I respect the most is my mother. 

About 7 years ago, my mom recognized that there were several “tween” girls attending her church, but the church lacked programs and groups for them.  Now, many people might go to the church leaders and suggest they do something about it.  Not my mom.  My mom decided to start a weekly group with these young girls in her home.  For several years, my mom and her friend took these young girls, many of whom were struggling at home and school, under their wings  - holding a weekly group, having sleepovers, and hosting movie and craft nights.  That quickly branched out to my mom attending the girls’ sporting events, offering them rides to school events, and generally just being a positive presence in the lives of these girls.  Was it always easy?  No.  Did they try my mom’s patience?  Absolutely.   But what has developed out of all of that is this:  over the years, my mom has created an open space and developed a trusting relationship with these girls.  This has allowed them to come to her and talk about anything and everything, from relationship issues to major life decisions (5 out of the 7 girls will soon be heading to college).   I’m constantly amazed and inspired by my mom.  She has shown me the importance of being involved in the life of a young person.  And I know that each one of them will treasure the relationships that have been cultivated for years to come.

If each community, church, or school had a handful of people willing to get involved in a child’s life, think about the positive things that would come of that.  There are many programs, both local and national (Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs, just to name a few), that are in desperate need of volunteers.  Stop It Now! offers great information about creating safe spaces for kids in youth serving organizations.  

We know that having positive, healthy relationships with trusted adults is one of the many protective factors that are important in preventing violence in the lives of young people.   So, how are you making a difference in the life of a teen?  Share your story with us by commenting below.