# 1 Tip to Engage and Connect with Teens in 2015

Even before 2015 started, my inbox and Facebook newsfeed began to be inundated with articles and links to promises of a better year.

“30 days to a better you.”
“Get fit and feel great in 60 days.”
“10 Tips for being the best you in 2015.”
“How to Start Over in 2015.”
” 4.7 ways to have more pillow fights in 2015.”

Ok I exaggerated on that last one, but you get the point. These are not bad in and of themselves. In fact I signed up to receive emails or PDF’s on how to better myself in 2015 from three authors I enjoy.

Seeing all of these made me wondering, how many people actually finish or follow the 30 days, 60 days or 4.7 tips? I personally have not cracked open one of the three PDF’s I received promising to better my life in 2015 and it is already mid January.

When I think about building positive relationships with teens, or improving your teen program in 2015, I have just ONE tips. One idea. One thing you can do each day that will make a difference.

Be Intentional.

Thats It, it is that simple.

Let me give you a few examples of being Intentional:

If you volunteer with a youth program, do not show up thinking this is just another volunteer opportunity. Before you even arrive think about what you want to accomplish during your time, what you want to talk about, which teen you might want to follow up with. Be Intentional. Develop a plan for how you are going to serve and connect with teens during your time. “I am going to follow up with Johnny tonight because he was having a rough day last week.” “I am going to learn 5 teens names tonight and something they are interested in.” “I am going to help greet and sign in all of the teens tonight.”

If you run a teen program, do not let the days fly by and fall into the same old routine. Be Intentional each day. Plan a new fun activity each day or week to engage the teens. Think about the teens you have not seen in a while and give them a call/text/email to see how they are doing. If a teen tells you about a TV show, movie or song they like, intentionally take time to check it out. Next time you see them mention it and start a conversation about why they like it.

These are little things that show the teen that you were thinking about them. Not just in that moment but before you even saw them. Before you or they even arrived.

If you are a parent of a teen, don’t just react and hope your teen will attempt to connect with you. Be Intentional. When you first see them after school, Instead of getting on them right away to do their school work, take time to ask them how their day was and truly LISTEN. Surprise them with their favorite snack or trip to their favorite restaurant. Ask them their opinion on topics ranging from daily news to decisions you are making that effect the family. Instead of harping on them about the music they listen to, the show they are watching or game they are playing, take time to ask them why they enjoy it. Sit down and have them teach you the game or watch the show with them.

Just doing something together, something they enjoy, can be a great bonding experience. It is an opportunity to come down to their level for a change and intentionally engage with them.

It shows that you truly care about them and that you are listening and paying attention to them. This is HUGE with teens and they love it.

Over my years of working with teens and consulting on teen programs, I have been blown away by the positive changes that occur when staff and volunteers choose to Be Intentional each day. One of the coolest, sometimes unexpected benefits of this practice is the effect it has on the adult. When you have a specific intention in your mind and you accomplish that, it makes you feel more engaged. It turns your volunteer time from, “I am spending an hour a week serving,” to “I just made an impact.”

In our busy world with tips and tricks to do everything, just chose to do this one thing this year. Be intentional in building relationships with the teens in your life and see where it takes you.

What Teens Want for Christmas: 2014 Edition

Christmas is a season filled with joy, laughter, and exchanging presents with relatives you might only see once a year. This can create more than a few awkward situations.

Purchasing a gift for a teenager can be one of those awkward situations where you take a wild guess and can end up as the best uncle ever or that weird guy who thinks teens still listen to music on CD’s. You want them to enjoy what you give them and find it useful, not end up on their bedroom floor or in the next garage sale.

To help you out, I surveyed teens to find out what they want or what they suggest getting the teen in your life for Christmas. Here is what they suggested:

  • Chromecast ($35) or Roku (Starting at $49.99): These are devices that you plug into Chromecasta TV that allows you to broadcast content and apps from your phone or tablet onto the TV screen. They can be used to stream content from apps such as Netflix and Hulu allowing teens to stop straining their eyes and neck trying to watch shows on their phones.
  • Bluetooth speakers that they can connect their phone or tablet to. Beats Pill and Mini Jambox are pretty popular options but also on the pricey side. There are a variety of cheaper options from $25-$100, just make sure the sound quality is goo and it produces a decent amount of bass when selecting a bluetooth speaker for a teen.
  • For the sports enthusiasts, Nike Elite socks are a good option and can be relatively cheap compared to the Air Jordan’s they also want. They make Elite socks for various sports as well as both genders. Here is an example of a Nike Elite basketball sock for guys.
  • Beats By Dre Headphones are still very popular with teens but are also among the most expensive headphones on the market starting around $170. The Urbeats are an alternative option but still run $99 a pair.
  • GoPro cameras are a very popular item and just right for the teen who likes to create content, take video or is into action sports.
  • Many of the girls mentioned clothing as an option if you knew their size and knew their sense of style. If not, gift cards to the following stores would do: Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Target, Forever 21, H & M or Foot Locker for the guys. If you live in a colder climate a scarf is also a great option for teen girl. Seriously, they can have one for each day of the month and still want more.
  • Phone accessories such as alternate cases. Make sure you find out what type of phone they have first.
  • Personal care items such as lotions or body wash from Bath & Body for the girls. Axe spray for the guys. Tip: ask that they refrain putting the Axe Spray on in the crowded room full of adults. Trust me.
  • Mass amounts of Gum!
  • The most popular item teens suggested were gift cards. This allows them to purchase something they want or add their own money to it to get a more expensive item. Here are a few gift card ideas:giftcard
    • Barnes & Noble for the reader
    • Amazon, that covers almost everything.
    • Starbucks for the coffee drinker.
    • iTunes for the music lover.
    • Wal-Mart, Target or a Visa Gift card are pretty safe bets.
    • Best Buy for the techie.

Do you have any ideas of what to get teens for Christmas to add to the list? Leave a comment and let me know. Of if have a funny story of an awkward moment of giving a gift to a teen or as a teen getting a gift from an adult please share. I would love to hear it.

Teen Trends: Summer of 2014

Did you spend your summer Vamping or watching a full season of a TV show in one sitting? Or are you taking the time to record a video of yourself doing some crazy stunt to post on YouTube? Maybe these don’t occupy your time, but for many teens, this is what has captivated their summer.

Let’s breakdown some of the Current Trends in Teen Culture.

Vamping: A fun new way to say “I stayed up late.” Teens staying up into the wee hours of vampingthe night surfing the internet, texting or playing video games is not a new trend. But taking a picture of your self and tagging it with #Vamping is. Read more about teens, sleep deprivation and Vamping in this New York Times Article.

“Fire Challenge” -Teens Set themselves on Fire: Videos have been on YouTube for several years showing teens putting a flammable liquid on themselves and then lighting it. In the past I have seen this viral video stunt done in small amounts. A dab on the arm or hand that is quickly extinguished. This summer the Fire Challenge gained popularity with oitnbteens dousing themselves in accelerant and lighting it. Luckily, out of the teens I spoke with, more have seen these videos than have actually partaken in the stunt.

Binge Watching Netflix:When I asked a group of teens what recent trends they have seen, unanimously they mentioned watching Netflix. Not just watching a movie or a TV show here or there. But sitting down and watching full seasons of a TV show in a short amount of time. Often in one or two nights. The most popular show teens have been binge watching on Netflix, Orange is the New Black.

hookahHookah Smoking: Recent studies suggest 1 in 5 teens have smoked Hookah (essentially a water pipe that is used to smoke specially made tobacco) in the last year. I shared this statistic with a group of teens and asked them if it sounded accurate. They responded with the following statements:

  • Everyone around here does it all the time! It’s like a hobby for some teens.”
  • It is very popular in my area. Just about everyone does it.”
  • “I have seen a lot of people in the area use Hookah pens. According to my knowledge they use it because it is water vapor and not real smoke yet it still contains nicotine/tobacco products. They also use it since it is cheap.”

The Positive: When I read articles that are labeled “Dangerous New Teen Trend,” or “Parents Be Aware of the Crazy Stuff your Teen is Doing,” I get upset. The reason being, articles like these lead us to be fearful for our teens and think they are all on some crazy mission to destroy themselves. I know that is not the case.

That is why I want to share with you some of the great things teens have been up to this summer. I asked the same group of teens what trends they were seeing this summer and here are some of the positive things they shared with me:

  • Engaging in new sports such as Rugby.
  • Taking summer school or college courses to get ahead.
  • Working a summer job.
  • Hanging out with their friends.
  • Going to the beach.
  • Going on trips with family.

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Does anyone remember back in April and May when teens were engaging in the “Cold Water Challenge?” They were jumping into bodies of cold Ice Bucket Challengewater and challenging their friends to do the same or donate to a charity. At the time there were several media stories talking about the dangers of the Cold Water Challenge and encouraging teens not to do it.

Fast forward a couple months, move from jumping in a lake to pouring ice water on your head and add in a single charity and you have the biggest trend not just for teens but everyone. My Facebook news feed and my favorite late night talk shows are full of videos of people taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS. Here is what teens have to say about the challenge:

  • Everyone in my town has been doing it, I have never seen anything like this before it is crazy. I thinks it has its drawbacks but it is great for the awareness of the disease.
  • I haven’t done it, but its been done by some of the senior citizens in our community and they challenged others I think it’s a fun safe challenge compared to others.
  • I’ve done it and also donated. I think it’s a trending challenge for a great cause, but many, including myself, are forgetting to spread awareness.”
  • I have done it and donated and I think it is amazing!! It’s getting people to know the cause and be aware of it!
  • I have done it… Twice and so have my friends. I haven’t donated yet. But I will try my best to donate at least $50 if possible. I think of it being a safer challenge/ dare rather than the fire or cinnamon challenges. Especially since it is for a good cause.
  • I think the Ice Bucket Challenge is a really fun, creative, and positive way to send a message to many people about ALS. You’re not getting hurt, it’s a positive message, and it’s fun! It makes people want to do it, and it gets a lot of people to donate, but it also spreads the message as well.

Leave a comment and let me know what Teen Trends have you seen gain popularity this summer?

Oh Crap: The Fears of Teens Today

Have you ever seen a teen hesitate to do something you knew they were good at? Paint a picture, participate in a sport, speak in front of a group, be a leader? More than likely they hesitate because there is a fear holding them back.

I would bet very few of us, if any, made it through our teen years without some fears deterring us from participating in an activity or working to accomplish a goal. I remember being in class and not completing an assignment because I was afraid I would get it wrong. Logically, I thought it was easier to just not do the assignment than to get it wrong. I even recall deciding not to attend certain events in college, out of fear I wouldn’t fit in.

In my previous post I talked about the hopes and dreams teens have today. When asked, teens expressed dreams of graduating high school and making a difference in the world. With that same group of teens, I also asked them what fears they have.

I learned teens today have a lot of fears. In fact when I asked about their hopes and fears, they responded with considerably more fears. This was true in both the sheer number of responses, and also the diversity of responses.

This did not surprise me too much, as the teenage years are filled with change. The world around them is changing as they grow up and gain more responsibility. Their bodies are changing. Their brain is allowing them to digest the world in ways they previously have not been able to. Many adults experience fear in the midst of change, so it is no surprise to learn teens are filled with fears and anxiety.

scared teenHere are some fears teens have today:

  • Not being good enough (in their own eyes & their parents eyes) or that they will fail
  • That they will be forgotten, not noticed or alone
  • That they will not do well in high school or college
  • That they will not achieve their dreams or accomplish their goals in life
  • Fear of death
  • Stuck doing something they do not enjoy
  • That college will be totally different from their expectations, and that it will be difficult
  • How society will view them, and what others will say and think about them
  • That they are a waste of space and cannot do or achieve anything in life

As I read these now, they make me sad. I can remember having some of those exact feelings as a teen and young adult. I had my whole life in front of me. It was exhilarating and scary all at the same time, and I was still trying to figure out how to navigate it. To top it off, everyone expected that I would be successful and do great things. At times I believed this and at other times I didn’t.

We need to realize that while teens may seem relaxed and carefree at times, there are very real fears that exist within them. I have witnessed guys graduating from high school go from goofing around and playing basketball one minute, to having a blank stare on their faces as they realized their fears about their uncertain future.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • Ask them what their fears are and don’t criticize or belittle their responses. As adults we may know the fear is irrational, but it is very real to them and the world as they see it.
  • Provide them opportunities to experience new things, especially as young teens. We often fear the unknown. If we provide opportunities and experiences in a safe group setting, this may help to decrease their anxiety of the unknown.
  • Share the fears you had as a teen. Talk about how you overcame those fears, or what opportunities you missed out on because you let your fear control you.
  • Focus on their hopes and dreams and help them to be action-oriented in striving towards their goals. It is good to acknowledge the fears but we don’t want to dwell in them.

Teens today need people in their lives rooting for them, supporting them and cheering them on. Not crushing their hopes and dreams. Allow your teen(s) dream big and help them overcome their fears on the way to achieving their dreams.

Oh Joy: The Hopes and Dreams of Teens Today

What do you see when you look at a teenager? Do you see a goofy kid lacking responsibility? Or do you see an aspiring young adult who wants to change the world? Or maybe something else?

Often, we see an element of the first. We witness a young person navigating their way through uncertain times – not a kid, but definitely not an adult.

Often this emerging, vulnerable person has a lot of passion! Although it may be for something seemingly materialistic, like the latest movie or a pair of shoes.

hopeful teenHowever, my experiences have shown me there is more to teens than this. I believe they have untapped passion. They have dreams and goals for their life, even if they have never spoken them out loud before. They are there, sometimes deep down inside.

I remember as a teen I dreamed of hitting the winning shot in the championship basketball game. I had goals to become a police officer, to serve others and help those in need. I had hopes of just fitting in. If we think back to our teen years, the majority of us had hopes, dreams and goals too.

Knowing someone’s hopes and dreams can tell you a lot about that person. I have been blown away by some of the deep thoughts teens and friends have shared when I’ve taken the time to ask about their hopes, and listen to their answers. I still remember a friend who told me about his dream to open up a sock store in the mall. It was a weird idea, but he was passionate about it.

If you work with teens or have teens, I encourage you to ask them what their hopes and dreams are. Like any relationship, having a positive bond established will contribute to the quality and depth of the conversation.

I recently asked a group of teens what their hopes and dreams were. Here are some of their responses:

  • To achieve greatness
  • To be a role model for younger kids
  • To be successful
  • To be happy, achieve my dreams and be stress free
  • To graduate high school and go to college
  • To be happy in my career, what ever it ends up being
  • To be successful in college
  • To fit in and be the best I can be
  • To choose the right path
  • To help make a difference in the world
  • To be a teacher and impact future students lives

Many of the teens I spoke to had a level of uncertainty about what exactly they wanted to do or be when they got older, but they did know they wanted to be successful. They defined success as making a difference, being happy and persevering when dealing with challenging situations or failure. None of them defined success as being rich.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • As you build a relationship and get to know your teens, take time to ask them what their hopes and dreams are. You can do this in a small group setting or one on one. If they don’t know that is ok. They may be embarrassed to say, or may have trouble articulating their thoughts. In a small group setting, writing, drawing or creating a collage out of magazine clippings can be a meaningful way for them to express their passion.
  • Share what your hopes and dreams were as a teen with them, no mater how silly or far-fetched. If you did not achieve those dreams, or perhaps went down another path, take time to explain that process. Teens will likely be comforted to hear how common it is to change course. Many teens fear their current dreams will not be satisfying in the long run. If you accomplished your dreams share with them how you did it. It can be helpful for teens to hear what steps you took, failures you experienced along the way, and how you overcame adversity.
  • Make a point to practice sensitivity with teens, and do not laugh or poke fun at their hopes and dreams.
  • Encourage them to pursue their dreams and to embrace their passions. My parents knew of mine and my brothers dreams of becoming police officers and connected us with a local law enforcement explorers program. Find opportunities to explore, experience and dive into their passions and dreams.

The next post in this series will focus on the fears teens experience today. Stay tuned!

Teen Culture Articles of Interest vol. 3

Occasionally I find myself busy, overwhelmed and not enough time to blog. Anyone ever have those feelings? If not let me know, I have a garage door my wife has wanted me to paint for over a year.

Until I have time to take a deep dive into writing a few posts, here are four articles I have read lately that are related to teens and teen culture. Enjoy and please share in the comments what recent articles or research related to teens today you have been diving into.

Move Over Avon Lady, the Tweens Are Here

I know my wife, along with most women I know, enjoy going to Thirty-one, Norwex or Stella & Dot parties where they get to socialize with their girlfriends and buy products from a friend who is sales rep for the company. We may or may not have hosted several of these parties at our own home. Now Willa, who sells skin care product for young girls, has turned to the direct sale model and is enlisting young teens as sales reps. This (great?) concept plays into the idea that youth are more likely to make a purchase based off a peer recommendation and it is encouraging youth to be entrepreneurs. Will other companies follow suit?

‘Fancy’ that! Meet your song-of-summer contenders

izzyWe all have that one song that takes you back to relaxing days hanging with your high school buddies during summer break. “Regulate”, “Paradise City” and  “All Star” are just a few I remember fondly. Here is a list of early contenders for songs that you are bound to hear overplayed and teens singing along to this summer. Side note: Here is a great list of the top 10 summer songs for each year between 1985-2013. I know you will spend the rest of your day drifting down memory lane listening to each summer. You’re welcome.

Understanding Facebook’s Lost Generation of Teens: The Social Network’s Struggle to Woo Kids isn’t Because it’s Also Their Parents’ Favorite Social Network

Because I get asked a question around teens views on Facebook at every presentation I do, I wanted to include this article which gives great insight into the topic. It is a long read but packed with teen perspective, which I appreciate. A couple of things that stood out to me were, the first app teens turn to on their phones are often singular function apps. And that teens are not necessarily leaving Facebook, they are just indifferent.

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its 2013 findings from the The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) which monitors health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults. Key findings include:

  • Nationwide, 41% of students who had driven a vehicle during the past 30 days reported texting or emailing while driving.
  • Cigarette smoking rates have dropped to the lowest levels since the YRBS began in 1991, from 27.5% to 15.7%
  • 25% of teens participated in physical fights in 2013, decreasing from 43% in 1991.

Finish this Sentence. Teens Today Are…..

Lazy, selfish, narcissistic, entitled. These words have angered me in recent years. Why? Because adults have used these words to describe teens today and I don’t feel they are accurate.

I will admit that teens can and do have these traits. But I have also met and interacted with hundreds of teens that are passionate, care for others, are focused and are having positive impacts on the world around them.

I decided to compare what adults thought about teens today with what teens think about their generation. I asked each group to share with me words or phrases that they thought described teens today. Here is what they told me.

How adults described teens today: 

adults describe teensThe five most common words used by adults to describe teens were: Lazy, Creative, Entitled, Disrespectful and Connected.

I was not surprised that the majority of the words were negative, but was pleased to see some adults responded with positive words such as creative and bright.

How Teens described their generation:

20140612-190653-68813708.jpg

 

The most common words teens used to describe themselves and their peers were: Confused, Technology Dependent, Socially Connected, Open Minded and Creative.

One interesting note was how teens felt the need to expand and explain their descriptive words. Almost like they were in a defensive posture just from me asking them the question.

Here is one example. One teen used the word focused to describe teens today. Then they went on by saying that if there is something a teen really wants or a goal they have, they are focused on achieving that goal.

Several teens were also quick to point out that it is hard to describe all teens with just a few words or phrases. They seemed to recognize that their were some negative stereotypes of teens today but they felt strong that those should not define all teen. I found it interesting that no adults made the same point.

My point.

My intent was to do this as a fun experiment to see the differences between how adults and teens describe teens today. I am sure we could do this with previous and future generations and get similar results of positive and negative descriptions.

I do want to challenge those adults that work and interact with teens today to not assume that all teens fit into one category or description. Imagine if an adult did that to you when you were a teen? I am guessing we all had moments we are not so proud of when we were teens that could have caused us to be labeled disrespectful, lazy, or a troublemaker.

In my experience, the more we approach teens as if they are lazy or disrespectful, the more likely they are going to act that way.

I want to encourage you to treat them as if they are amazing, talented, creative teens with something to offer. You might be surprised that they fulfill those expectations.

What are Teens Plans for the Summer?

That last school bells are ringing and that means one thing for teens. Summer is finally here. After spending nine months in classrooms learning, growing and hopefully maturing, teens get 2-3 months off. I am sure they are going to use that time to reflect on all the amazing things they learned and prepare themselves for the coming school year. Heck maybe they will even change the world.

summer and teensOk, maybe that is not how they plan to spend their summer. We can dream right?

I was curious what teens will actually be doing during their summer break, so I asked a group of teens the following questions. What they were most looking forward to about summer and what were their plans? Here are their responses:

  • “I am looking forward to hanging out with family and friends.
  • “Going to the Beach!”
  • “I am really excited about starting my first Job!” Several teens mentioned they were looking forward to working this summer both for the experience and making some spending cash.
  • “I am looking forward to hanging out with friends and making new memories.”
  • “I am looking forward to some camps I am attending.”
  • “Camping, beach, 4th of July, and also some of my friends and I are gonna go on a road trip out-of-state! I’m getting fired up just thinking about it.”
  • “I am looking forward to meeting new people and volunteer opportunities.”
  • “Looking forward to the beach( a lot of beach!) and a possible sky diving trip ! And honestly , I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to read a book that I want to read!”
  • “Getting Ready to start College.”

Sounds like a pretty awesome summer. I would go back to school in a heartbeat if I could have a summer vacation again. I wonder if my boss will let me take the next three months off. I want to go to the beach, hang with friends and go to camps too.

How are your teens planning on spending the summer?

One Simple Thing You Can Do to Make a Big Difference in Teens Lives

Every time I speak with youth workers or parents, I continually share the one idea that I feel will make a difference in teens lives today. One concept that if you use it with your teens over time, you will see a difference. A difference in your relationship. A difference in their respect for you. And a difference in the impact you can have on their lives.

The great thing about this ideas is how simple it is. Are you ready for it?

BE INTENTIONAL!

Simple right? Let me unpack this concept for you.

If you work with teens, before they even arrive for your program, have a plan in mind. I don’t just mean your program plan.

For Youth workers it looks like:

  • Having intentional plans about specific youth you want to connect with. Maybe a teen who you know had a bad day the previous day. Or one who had a big test today. Or had a court appearance. Seriously make a list of the teens you want to connect with and keep it in your pocket.
  • Have specific conversations in mind that you want to have with teens. About character traits. About events happening in pop culture that might connect to elements of your program.
  • Think about teens who you can complement them on what they have been doing well recently. Or just share how much you appreciate them.
  • Intentionally plan fun! We often get stuck in our program goals and forget to have fun. Teens want to have fun. Plan jokes, fun Minute to Win it games, Minute mysteries, icebreakers etc.
  • Be intentional with your staff and volunteers.
    • Have staff review a list of teens in your program. Identify which ones you know well and which ones you don’t. Then intentionally make efforts to reach out to the ones you don’t know as well. Make it your goal that day to learn one thing about one of those teens. If you continually do this, over a month you will know a decent amount about that teen.
    • If you volunteer with teens make sure you connect with the staff or other volunteers briefly to develop a game plan for the day. Who is going to lead discussions, who is leading activities, what topics may have been discussed on days when you were not present.

For Parents it can look like:

  • Intentionally make plans to hang out with your teen and do something they want to do. Schedule dates with them. My father-in law did this with all four of his daughters. He frequently made time to connect with each of them one-on-one, to listen to them and to connect with them. I have already started building daddy-daughter dates into my routine with my two girls even though they are not teens yet.
  • Write down the values and characteristics you want your teens to have and then figure out creative ways to introduce those to your teens. If you want them to be problem solvers invite them to help you the next time you have to fix an issue in your house, but let them come up with the solutions and try them out. If you want them to have a giving spirit, include them in conversations about what charities your family gives donations to. Even better, give them a set amount of money that they can donate to a charity of their choice. Walk alongside them as they investigate which charity they want to support.
  • Pay attention to what their favorite snacks are, TV shows, Movies or magazines. And when they are having a rough day or week, surprise them with their favorite snack or magazine.
  • Ask how their day was and truly listen. If they don’t respond be more specific, ask about a certain class, or teacher, or test, or activity they participate int.

Chap Clark in his book Hurt makes a powerful statement regarding adolescence today. He says, “we as adults who care have a long way to go to penetrate the layers of protection that keep us from being one more disappointment (to teens) in a world filled with them. But I am convinced that we are welcome there, if we mean it. And they need us to mean it.”

Do whatever you can not to be a disappointment to the teens in your life. I believe it all starts with being intentional.

How to Connect with Teens

Working with teens for the last 13 years, I have learned something very important. No two teens are alike. Therefore we can’t use the same tactics in dealing with every teen.

Here is one example.

Think about your youth group, your teens or teens you work with. You probably have a teen or two that are very talkative and will answer any question you ask (even if they don’t know the answer). These are the teens that you know when they are in the room because they are very engaged and active. In contrast you probably have a few teens that are more quiet and reserved. The ones that would not answer a question if no-one else was in the room let alone a large group. These are the teens that if they don’t show up for an event, you might not realize that they are not there.

I recently heard two great ideas about how to engage and connect with this second group of teens.

The first idea comes from two ladies I volunteer with at my church’s youth group. Shout out to Andi and Nicole! During our weekly youth group, they meet with a small group of high school girls to discuss the message shared that evening, chat, ask questions and support each other. They know not all of their girls feel comfortable asking questions in a group setting and have come up with an awesome option to connect with them.

We have assigned lockers for each of our high school small groups, and Andi and Nicole keep a journal in that locker. At any time their girls can grab the journal and write a question in it, share a prayer request or just write down their thoughts. Andi and Nicole will check the journal periodically and respond to what the girls have written. This provides space for the girls who might not feel comfortable asking a question in the group environment. Great Job Andi and Nicole! Parents, I think keeping a journal in your home to converse with your teen would also work well.

The second idea I heard from several sources including conversations with parents of teens.

Have you ever seen a teen blush when you try to say something positive to them? Or when you ask them a question that might embarrass them? Yes and Yes. The thing is, teens want to know someone is proud of them and teens value the opinions of their parents and adult role models. They just might not show it or know how to accept it yet.

Most teens today own a cell phone and love to text. Use that to your advantage. Text your teen encouragement, that you are proud of their accomplishments or to continue making good choices. Have short conversations via text with your ten. This should not be an end all but it is a great way to let them know you care and start the conversation.

These are just two ideas that I have heard recently and wanted to share. The important message to take away is keep trying. If the method you are using to communicate with your teen is not working, try something else, be creative, ask your teen(s) how you can communicate with them and make sure you are creating opportunities to connect with all of your teens.