Connections

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As people helping youth elevate their lives in the world, it is easy to see that our young people are up against a lot. More than ever, mental health is a vital topic to talk about with our young people. It is not just about the topic, but creating the environment and relationships needed to all these conversations to take place.

A recent study demonstrates the need for young people to build networks of relationships with other people their age and with a caring adult. This study looked at the impact of mental health challenges in schools and how well connected young people are to one another and to teachers within the school. The findings showed that when young people had one adult to talk to about life and struggles they were less likely to engage in negative behavior. We must continue to look for new ways to allow relationships to flourish between our young people and adults in their lives.

One of the schools that we work with incorporate a small groups model. Every week, for one hour, school staff meet with 10-12 students for the entirety of the school year. What is amazing about this is the consistency of meeting, the ability to create a safe space to have conversations and equipping teachers and staff to talk to youth and build relationships with young people.

We love what Orange has to say about small groups, building relationships with young people, and helping them thrive. There are a ton of great resources, curriculum, conversation guides and people to connect with to help see you influence the next generation. They are currently on tour talking about how to make your relationships personal and are meeting in May for their annual conference. If you are looking for some ways to connect with young people better, check out their leaders blog here.

When we step into the lives of young people, and win the right to be heard, we are able to leverage everything we have to help them succeed. More and more research is pointing to the importance of building positive relationships with young people, from peers, adults and entire communities. Keep growing in your ability to impact the lives of young people and see them thrive.

Networks

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The youth of our country are facing a unique time. A time where drunk driving and teenage pregnancy rates are down, yet a more deadly and silent threat has continued to loom over them. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide. Looking at ways to prevent suicide and strengthen young people who struggle with suicide ideation is a new struggle that many are looking at combating. A new study may hold some promises in solutions we already hold true in working with young people.

A 2019 study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, shows promises for the reduction of suicidal behavior in adolescents. This study is unique through its examination of social network structures in schools. The study looked at how peer friendships, and the presence of a trusted adult, would impact suicidal behaviors (attempts and ideation). What the study found was that when students had more friends, when there was the presence of a trusted adult, and when those same friends could name that same adulted as someone they trust, there was a reduction in rates for suicidal behavior.

This echoes what many youth workers, and we here at Rally Youth, believe in. The idea is to have a consistent, caring adult, engage in the lives of a group of youth. This idea can even be utilized in schools to transform how schools engage youth, keep track of student needs, monitor academic progress and help build meaningful connections between youth and staff.

In whatever program or context that you are in, keep fighting to build connections between youth and caring adults. Research in continuously pointing to new benefits of these relationships.

Tough Talk

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Use your influence in the lives of young people to have the tough conversations with them. Don’t shy away from the topics that other adults may be too embarrassed or not informed to talk about. Open up the door to have a conversation, not to lecture or give advice, but to validate thoughts, ask them questions and steer them toward choices that will improve their lives, give hope and extent grace. Here are a few conversations that while tough have proven to be worthwhile in helping young people.

Sex

Talking with young people about sex and giving them a safe person to ask questions to can help them navigate tough moments. Can it be awkward and uncomfortable yes, but we would rather have young people have a conversation with us, a person to ask questions too, than what article they can find online. Driving with a few of the guys, I knew their Mom was worried about them, girls, dating, and possibly sex. So, we had to have a conversation. I started off by letting them know that we are going to talk about something a little awkward for 10-15 minutes, that it was a safe place to ask questions, and after that time that they knew they could come to me with questions and I wouldn’t bother them on a daily basis about it. They felt they could talk to me more than their Mom, that just knowing there was an end to the conversation helped get through it, and they had some really good questions. If we want to influence young people to view sex in a healthy way, we need to be informed and willing to have a conversation with them.

Mental Health

You never really know until you ask. Our young people are continually bombarded my stress, pressure and expectations that can wear down on a persons mental health. By normalizing the conversation with you about mental health we can help them connect to community resources and talk about the pressures that they feel. Not sure how to have the conversation? There are a ton of organizations that look to promote mental health and wellness, attend a training or a conference, and begin to ask youth about their mental health during your typical conversations. Some of the things that we do are mental health checks, asking youth to describe emotions, practicing mindfulness and learning about coping strategies. This is a new generation where rates of drunk driving and teenage pregnancies are down, however depression, mental health challenges, and suicide rates are at an al time high for our young people. Have a conversation with them about mental health and ways to improve their wellness.

Parenting

What do you think it means to be a good Dad or Mom? A lot of the youth we work with are teenage parents. They know what it takes to be a good parent, sometimes they just need some extra support. Start to have the conversation about what it means to be a parent and how they can influence the lives of their kids. As a new father, I began to ask a lot of the groups I worked with for advice. Sounds crazy, but they all have parents, have experienced amazing things and dealt with hurts. Their hearts bursted with ideas, joy and thoughts about parenting. If you have teenage parents in your programs, create safe spaces for them to come and engage with other youth and allow their kids a safe space to be as well.

No one likes tough conversations. They can be awkward, unnerving and can even have some level of conflict in them. Yet, these conversations when had in a safe space, with an adult that has demonstrated care and respect, can help equip our young people to make informed decisions about their lives.

Create Safe Spaces

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    Youth need safe spaces to thrive. Space to be heard, respected, and cared for. Programs that are able create these spaces will be able to engage more youth and build momentum to impact their lives. One of the key ways to build a safe space is to hold common expectations of all youth. These common expectations include ground rules, like respect and compassion, the right to be heard and understanding what to expect from the adults who they interact with. Holding one another to these expectations and consistency in applying them is key. Once we create spaces where youth can be comfortable in their own skin, we can build relationships that allow us to walk with them through life. When we demonstrate that we care for youth we begin to create safe spaces for them to learn about, question, and engage the world around them. Adults are able to do this when they use words that validate and affirm youth, their presence and their abilities. Think about some of the youth that you work with. Do you know where they live, their family dynamics, what their favorite subject is or what they are afraid of or their wildest dreams? Answer to these questions help adults to peer into the lives of youth to understand their context and raises our ability to speak into their limitless potential.

    Recently, I was able to ask a group of youth what they would want in a safe space. Many of their ideas and thoughts revolved around the idea that a safe space should validate youth voice, youth opinions and youth experiences. When adults are able to have conversations with young people that encourages, appreciates and validates their opinions and experiences, youth will be able to open up more in an understanding that they are cared for and are not treated less than someone who is older or who has more college degrees. Equity and inclusion are also major contributors to helping create safe spaces. Does your program support the principles that all youth are different, but equally valued and important? As Generation Z reaches their teenage years and enters into adulthood the need for safe spaces to be heard, to problem solve and to experience the world around them is vital.

Engaging Gen Z

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It seems that each new generation takes the blame for the current status of our society. Blame the boomers, the millennials and now, blame Gen Z. Generation Z is the largest generation we have seen with an estimated 69-70 million youth. This generation are digital natives, having grown up with technology and they don’t remember the time before cell phones, or the internet. How do we engage a generation of youth that are unique? Do our programs and methods prepare them to face our current world or one twenty years ago? The Barna group has done some amazing research into the different generations. Here are some of our thoughts on how we can shift how we engage this generation of youth.

This generation can spend upwards of 8 hours looking at screens in a given day. Our programs and groups needs to operate in a way that communicates to and engages youth digitally. You should have a social media strategy in place to equip, empower and engage youth throughout the week. Give them some quick tips of information, give them other ways to connect with your program and engage them in conversations.  Help them learn on to stay safe online and develop positive habits. We must continue to leverage technology in order to influence youth.

As this generation is so diverse with many beliefs, and with a hesitancy to undermine someone else’s, youth today need safe spaces. This includes space to just be, free of judgement or bullying, and safe places to ask questions about the world. Many adults feel that when youth ask questions, or why something is the way it is, that they are being disrespectful. What if we changed this mindset to understand that youth are simply getting as much information as they can to formulate their own beliefs and worldview? These safe spaces help youth process a fast-paced and interconnected way of thinking to allow them to develop.
Generation Z is looking towards the future. They measure their success by the professional success, their influence and their financial security. We can walk alongside youth to point to areas where happiness doesn’t always equal money. As caring adults we can also teach them financial lessons early, from saving money to college choices. Helping youth discover their purpose and how they can make a mark on the world allows us to engage youth in new and exciting way.

Times are changing, and how we engage youth should change too. Build authentic relationships with them to help navigate an ever changing social, cultural and professional landscape. We shouldn’t be worried about our future with Generation Z, we should be excited that we get to partner with them in changing the world.

Check out Barna’s research on generations here, or check out their book on Generation Z.

Orange Tour!

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In early May, we had to opportunity to attend the Orange Conference. It is by far the best conference that helps impact the next generation we have been too. For a long time we wished we could help bring the information and material to us locally and find ways to bring more of our team. Orange has done just that.

They call it Orange Tour. It is a great way to get a scaled-down, but jammed packed, experience with a ton of information and resources. They have the same great speakers, same great breakouts and amazing resources to share.

Last year, a few people from our team had no clue what Orange was and the impact that Orange is having by influencing the next generation, families, and organizations that influence them. We decided to get our team acclimated by sending them to an Orange Tour stop.

They hadn’t even come back home yet and we were brainstorming new ideas and wrestling with challenging topics. Orange Tour was a great way to get some of our team introduced to Orange strategy. We have had better conversations as a team as we are able to all come from the same reference point and philosophy. Using the Phase framework, we can help address the needs of our youth and their families better as they grow up. In the end, our youth and families win because we look for new ways to engage our community and influence the next generation.

This years theme is “It’s Personal.” We dive in to see how we can not just impact the life of a generation, but get personal with one youth. If you are looking for a strategy to unite your team around check out an Orange Tour stop near you. Just click here to get more information on this great opportunity.

Hope

 

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We got into a long, and at moments heated, conversation about change. Our youth were questioning whether it was possible to change. There was a worry that if they were to change and community members remained the same, they would be in danger. Youth weren’t expecting to live past the age of 25, so why go through the trouble of changing.

This is a common experience. For us it is an issue of hope. That for some of our youth they have not created an image of a positive future for themselves. They are not sure of how they can change, how others could help, or how to leverage their passions to find success.

We began to reframe the conversation. We simply asked, “What if you lived longer?”

Some of our youth never thought of this before. We began to think through people in their life that they want to be like who are older than what they expect to live to. They gave names of brothers, uncles and even their Mom. The next step was to think of one thing they could do to be more like that person. Our youth began to answer with graduate from high school, start a business and needing to be kinder.

We began working on goals around their answers and seeing how reaching that goal might be a positive thing for them. A difficult conversation was shifted to one that help our youth see hope.

What if we realized that a major aspect of the work we all do with youth was simply to give them hope. How would that change your conversations, your interactions with youth and how you support their families?

Give them hope.

Orange Conference 19.2

 

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Day Two is wrapping up and we got wrecked by one of our workshops: Engage, Mobilize and Launch City Students. Here are are few of our favorite quotes:

Their position and perspective changes when you make it personal.

You are giving them things in their NOW, that they will need in their NEXT.

There is a gap between what you know and the real world that kids live in. It’s your job to bridge the gap.

Do you believe down deep that every young person is wired to do significant things.

It is a passion here at Rally Youth that we believe that EVERY young person is wired to do significant things. It is our job to walk with them as they discover it, fail at it, and need us to catch them in the process. We loved hearing from the speakers Robert Purvey and Lisette Fraser, feel free to check out below along with our other notes from the day.

Main Session 19.2

ENGAGE, MOBILIZE, AND LAUNCH CITY STUDENTS

FIND MY VOICE

USE MOTIVATION AND ACTION TO LEAD TO FASTER CHANGE AND HAPPIER PEOPLE

 

 

Orange Conference 19.1

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We have wrapped up a big day at our favorite conference, Orange. Something that was said that has sparked some great conversation for us is a simple question:

How do we help young men and young women determine their gifting, their passion and walk with them in their purpose?

That is a passion of ours at Rally Youth. Walking alongside youth to help them discover what they are passionate about and help them find their purpose in the world. When we can help youth discover their purpose and how to leverage their passions it transcends a simple vocation, allowing youth to thrive.

Here are our notes from the breakout labs we attended today and some great quotes from the conferences main session tonight. Be sure to follow us on Instagram @rally_youth to see what else we are learning!

HELP STUDENTS IMPROVE LEADERSHIP SKILLS

CREATE A LEARNING CULTURE FOR EVERY LEADER

DEVELOP AN EFFECTIVE COACHING SYSTEM

TRANSLATE MY ENNEAGRAM

Main Session #1 Quotes

More than a Number

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I was walking up to the football field and noticed he was wearing my number. The same number that I wore when I played for years.

That means something. There is tradition in jersey numbers, there is expectation and there is meaning. You see kids pick out numbers that reflect their heroes and favorite players.

He was wearing my number.

Words couldn’t express what that did for me. I walked up and asked him if it was just a random coincidence. He said he remembered me telling him that was my number from a conversation I had no recollection of.

He did.

You never know what impact you are actually having. There may be no thank you or party thrown in your honor, you may never receive an award. You are still making a difference.

Keep showing up for them. Be consistent and show up when they expect you too and when they don’t expect you too. When you show up when it is expected you are there for your appointments, weekly meetings or programs. When you show up unexpected, you enter into their world, you show up for lunch with their favorite fast food, you pick them up early to go shoot hoops, or you attend their sporting events.

Don’t underestimate the power of your influence in young people’s lives. Keep showing up. You’re their hero.