Teens: It’s All About Relationships

How Lakeside Succeeds with Hundreds of At-Risk Students

If you want to understand how teens (students) can grow and change, it helps to understand two basic presuppositions, particularly in the instances of broken relationships with peers, teachers, school administrators or family members.

Understanding the Requirements of Broken Relationships

First, we recognize that the relationships we build with students are essential to their success. We also know that growth only occurs over time through these relationships.

Skeptical female student
Building trust takes time and patience

Building trust with students who have been negatively labeled or who have been convinced that they cannot succeed is a difficult task. This is a long process that requires a great deal of safety and relational integrity, and students recognize that we are in the slow process of earning their trust.

Time and time again we have seen students who have had extraordinary problems and obstacles completely turn around and accomplish goals that surprise even their parents.

However, success will not occur unless people who care for these vulnerable students expend intentional effort to build trust, understand who the students are as individuals. It is also essential to give them the respect they need to be honest about their struggles as we (with them) facilitate a new journey.

Second, understand that students who have been identified with significant issues really need an advocate in their lives to help them navigate through the difficult moments of change and growth. And yes, it is a most difficult process where the key adults in their lives must consistently demonstrate a great deal of patience and understanding.

  • Many teenagers who really want to change do not feel change is possible. So, rather than admit failure, they will oppose anyone who attempts to change them.

From Their Perspective What You Do Makes A Difference

After all, it is often the case from students’ perspective that the adults in their lives have been unable to have success as well. Therefore, a major part of helping students achieve success is to have key individuals in their lives who know them, accept them, can build trust with them, and guide them through problem exploration and resolution.

It takes a great deal of patience to build this relationship over time. When we are intentional about building relationships this way, the potential for results and changes in their lives are truly exciting.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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