Why The Teen Compass matters

Teenagers have talked to me about their lives for more than thirty years, first as a teacher and now as a family therapist. Over the years I have become increasingly aware of teens’ needs and their desire to have a safe place to talk about the world in which they live. It is important for them to be able to work through the challenges they face to being happy and healthy. The decisions they make each day impact their overall well-being and create the foundation of their adult lives.

Even though more than twenty years have passed, I’ll never forget the morning one girl arrived late for a high-school class. When I asked her why she was late, she explained she had had trouble at home the night before. She whispered that her dad was beating her mom, so she had to call the police. They came and arrested him, creating quite a scene, and she wasn’t able to sleep all night. As the other students were waiting, I asked her take her seat. Watching her walk away I thought, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t turn my students away, expecting them to focus in my class when obviously they have so much more on their minds.”

That day I began to wonder what I could do to provide teens with a safe place to talk about what was going on in their lives. Things like troubles with friends, worries about their parents’ jobs, stress at home, romantic relationship stresses, illnesses and/or deaths in the family, academic problems, moves, divorces, learning to live with new stepfamilies, and much more. I began to think about how to help teens see that they have the power to influence situations around them, and to be proactive about their health and well-being. That interaction was only one of many I had with my students over the years that kept nagging at me, making me wonder how to offer teens a listening ear and trusted support.

GroupThen, about five years ago, I read a book I came to love entitled, Hurt 2.0, by Chap Clark. It summarized everything I had been hearing from the teens with whom I worked. His conclusion was that we now have a generation of young people who are lonely and hurting and need caring adults and safe peer relationships to help them grow into healthy and happy adults. I spoke with my husband, Scott, about the ideas in the book, and we agreed that the time had come to do something.

We decided to begin what has become The Teen Compass Wellness curriculum—a resource to be used with teenagers to encourage self-reflection and honest, heartfelt discussion with adults and peers in a safe environment. A place they can discuss the challenges they face in their lives and how to make good, healthy decisions. Our dream is that this program will help create safe spaces for important conversations that might never happen otherwise, help teens to think through decisions that will impact their health, realizing that the decisions they make today will create their futures. It is our greatest hope that these materials might possibly change the course of young people’s lives for the better, one thoughtful decision at a time.

These are some of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. What about yours? I’d love to hear from you.

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Holly Hughes Stoner, LMFT