Meet JJ Francis

James “JJ” Francis has served in several roles at Shelterwood, and today he is the Assistant Director of Training and Leadership Development. “Young people are not just the future, they are the present, and when you can help them have a relationship with God, that changes everything,” he says. Meet JJ Francis.

What he loves most about Shelterwood: “Bar none, the most important thing is that we get to minister to kids and families,” JJ says about his work at the residential treatment agency. “We get to meet great people, we get to share the love of God and then walk out that love in our day-to-day jobs and activities.”

Before Shelterwood: JJ is originally from Florida, where he started his career as both a youth pastor and a therapist. He focused his education on pursuing a career in both ministry and therapy, and has his Master’s in Counseling and Clinical Mental Health from Pentecostal Theological Seminary. He recently passed the National Counselor Exam, and today, he is working to earn his Doctorate of Education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

What brought him to Shelterwood: JJ first came to Shelterwood residential treatment agency in May 2013 to become a Mentor. “I believe that people need second chances,” JJ says. “I wanted the opportunity to openly share my faith and pour into young people. If you can affect the life of a young person today, you can impact a community tomorrow.” Since then, he has held several roles at Shelterwood. “I have worked with leadership development, recruited Mentors to become part of our program, trained staff when they joined our team and developed web-based resources for the Shelterwood team.”

Day in the life: As Assistant Director of Training and Leadership Development, JJ has a variety of responsibilities, but everything he does has a singular focus. “We have a motto that every interaction we have with students should be healing, and every interaction I have with Mentors should be encouraging. That is always my goal: to be encouraging. If we maintain a healthy perspective, there is nothing we cannot do.” Currently, he is focused on recruiting new members of the Mentor team. This includes reviewing applications, conducting interviews, visiting school campuses to recruit team members and developing the intensive training for Mentors.

When he was a teen: “I had seen what drugs and drinking had done to people outside, so I had a mindset to stay positive,” JJ recalls. “My dad is a pastor, and so we had traveled to many different places and gone on many missions trips. It made me grateful for what we have here in the United States. My teenage experience was low-key, and I just enjoyed life, hung out with friends, went to the movies, went to church and enjoyed life.”

Family: “I love my family and we are very close,” JJ says. Like their dad, both JJ and his brother are pastors. One of JJ’s sisters lives in Hong Kong and his other sister lives in Atlanta, “but we communicate all the time. When we can inspire other families to maintain strong family bonds, we do all we can to encourage them.”

Outside work: JJ enjoys being involved in his church, working out and staying active and spending time with good friends. “Honestly, I just enjoy being around solid people!” he smiles.

Best part of his role at Shelterwood: “I have been part of every department, and working as a team is my favorite thing to do. This is certainly a calling over a job. God has really revealed Himself as a loving father to me, and one of the greatest benefits of working here is seeing that unfold. God can really work when we allow Him to.”

Five ways to help your teen release stress and relieve anger

Of all the emotions your teen faces, anger can pose a unique challenge. Releasing anger in heated moments is no small feat. Anger is a difficult emotion, particularly when coupled with stress. Show your teen how much you care by coming alongside them, helping them to relieve anger and release stress. Here are five ways to guide your teen towards a healthy response to relieving anger and releasing stress:

1.) Model healthy habits for your teen when you are angry.

Even when we may not realize it, teens are watching how we respond to challenges. So, in moments of frustration and anger, seize the opportunity. When you take responsibility for your own emotions, you show your teen what a good response in a tough moment can look like. Anger can be a healthy reaction to an injustice, and personally, anger can be good when it’s expressed in a focused way instead of using it to harm or punish others. Take a break from the situation to cool down, or channel your anger into something productive, like exercise. If you do overreact — after all, we are only human! — own your emotions and use the moment as a springboard for discussion.

2.) Table the conversation for the moment.

We all know the feeling: sometimes, when all we feel is outrage, we simply need to cool down. Give your teen space in a moment of anger. This shows your teen that you respect their emotions enough to wait until they are ready to share. A few minutes of quiet can deescalate the situation. Particularly if the anger is in response to a conflict between you and your teen, taking time to cool off can turn the tide. Once the tension has lifted, maintain an open mind as you enter into conversation.

3.) Acknowledge the root of how your teen is feeling.

More often than not, there is something deeper beneath your teen’s anger. Chances are, something stressful has happened and this angry moment is a delayed reaction, or the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” so to speak. Particularly if your teen is rebelling, the key is in getting to the root of the cause. Parent from a place of love, engage a support system when you need it and communicate with consistency. If you worry that your teen may be in the middle of a difficult season, here are some signs.

4.) Truly listen to what your teen has to share.

Listening can be a difficult aspect of communication, especially with a struggling teen. When your teen does share, take the time to be present and listen well. Reserve your own opinions for the moment; simply showing your teen that you can be a trusted sounding board can help your teen calm down and relieve anger.

5.) Be aware of patterns in anger, because it could be a symptom of something bigger.

The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that a staggering one in five children ages 13 – 18 live with a mental health condition. Although your teen may appear angry on the surface, this emotion could indicate a serious problem, like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse or alcohol abuse. If you suspect this could be the case, expand the conversation past the moment at hand and start the conversation about mental health.

If you are worried about your teen’s anger, it may be time to get help. Consider Shelterwood, a  residential treatment agency. We combine boarding school excellence with the best in therapeutic care for real transformation. At Shelterwood, our desire is to create an environment where teens know they are loved, valued and have purpose. Today can be a turning point for your teen and your family. Take the first step towards real restoration. Contact us now: 866.585.8939.

When parenting feels overwhelming

Even on our best days, parenting a teen can seem overwhelming. Navigating how best to care for your child in the transition to independence is a challenging balance. If you are feeling drained, know that you are not alone. These tips can help you stay the course.

You are okay.

It is normal to feel overwhelmed. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect teenager, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Strive for good, not perfect. If your teen is acting out, do not internalize his or her behavior towards you. Your teen is going through a developmental stage. Even teen rebellion can be part of growth. It’s normal and okay to feel anxious and worried about your teen’s stage. Try to be objective about the stage and realize it is not your fault. It’s simply the journey that they are on.

Do not compare.

When you look around at families of teens like yours, it can seem like everyone has it easy. Yet, in reality, other families with teens are wrestling with conflict, struggling with boundaries and facing other challenges just like yours. Falling into the trap of comparison is not helpful for you or your family. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” as Theodore Roosevelt said. Instead of comparing, shift your mindset to gratefulness and positivity.

Utilize community resources.

You are not alone. When you feel overwhelmed with parenting, leverage resources available to you. Your church or school may have a parent networking group that meets regularly either online or in person. Additionally, there are many reputable resources online to equip parents like you.   

Schedule self-care.

When your life is focused on your teen, you can easily forget about your own care. It is important to stay healthy. Get rest and regular exercise. Schedule time to see your friends. Give yourself permission to say “no.” To best serve your teen, you need to be emotionally, spiritually and physically well. When you prioritize yourself, you model a healthy lifestyle for your child, showcasing the value of self-care.

Reach out for help.

If you have reached the point where you are constantly burnt out, your family may need additional support. A residential treatment agency like Shelterwood can offer your family true restoration. Check out this blog if you’re debating whether it’s time for residential treatment.

At Shelterwood, our desire is to create an environment where teens know they are loved, valued and have purpose. Teens arrive at Shelterwood when they are at their worst, and often leave with a transformed heart and a life restored. To learn more about how Shelterwood can help on your teen’s journey to restoration, call 866-585-8939.