Will you promise not to tell anyone?
Am I safe with you?
If you’re like me, I’m guessing you’ve been asked questions like these before. Teenagers, like all of us, long to have safe places to be heard, known, and loved. But what makes students feel safe? And what does “safety” actually mean?
Providing safe places for students results in emotional well-being. Ultimately, reflecting God’s love and care for our students also helps them to feel free to be the people God has made them to be.
Students at Peace
A young person’s well-being is impacted by their environment, including their community, family relationships, and support. Research on well-being encompasses emotional, mental, and physical health as well as social competence and healthy relationships. 1 In other words, well-being is a comprehensive term that indicates wholeness, safety, rootedness, and a sense of being at peace with self, others, and God. Teenagers who know they are loved and have purpose in life feel this sense of wholeness.
But for many, that peace is elusive.
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What’s the Impact When Teens Feel Safe?
When young people feel protected, there are outcomes beyond “safety”. Teenagers who experience increased well-being grow in self confidence, connectedness to community, and a more authentic life. Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence identifies kids’ five emotional competencies basic to social and emotional learning that are a result of a sense of well-being:
- Self and other awareness: understanding and identifying feelings.
- Mood management: handling and managing difficult feelings.
- Self-motivation: being able to set goals and persevere toward them with hope.
- Empathy: being able to put yourself "in someone else's shoes" and show that you care.
- Management of relationships: handling friendships and resolving conflicts.
Our investment today with our students can reap benefits for years to come. In my own early years, my grandmother played a key role. She made sure I knew that with her I was safe and valued. She communicated this through words, prayer, and presence, which I carry with me today as an adult.
Dr. Mary Glenn is an Urban Youth Ministry professor with the Fuller Youth Institute, is the Director of Collaborative Partnerships and Education with City Net (a faith-based nonprofit seeking God’s peace in cities), and has served as the senior chaplain at Alhambra Police Department for 15 years. She is passionate about youth, police, and cities.
Fuller Youth Ministry Institute equips teenagers with the lifelong faith they need. They do this by transforming research into resources that elevate leaders, kids, and families.