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What I learned working with at-risk youth

by Terri Kang (Sun Gwang) 

working with teens

Three things I see as vital

Terri Kang

Terri Kang

In working with at-risk youth, one must address the deep underlying  issues, and be aware of the changes that will manifest when these troubled young people begin to respond. Many of the underlying problems they have are generated by the kind of parenting they had, as well as educators and others who interacted with them as they were growing up, and those who presently influence them as well. In order to heal them, it is necessary to change our paradigm, and see this as a message for all of us.

I’d like  to share my experiences in working with these young people, both in how I approached them, and the kinds of changes that manifested.



I’ve worked with many different kinds of personalities amongst the teens, and I realized that I had to be flexible to appropriately respond to each one’s specific needs. Flexibility is key, but one must be sure it is done with wisdom instead of just changeability, or it can be risky. There is a lot at stake, and some things require a special understanding in order to restore these sad kids to complete mental, physical, and emotional health. So I must address the following issues.

This understanding is something most people have difficulty comprehending. Everyone knows we each have an “ego”, though most don’t understand quite what it is.  And we all want to become “Who we Really Are”, and we also don’t know what that is, or we would work to be That.

In order to understand about our True Self, we first must understand what is NOT ourselves, namely, the “ego”. This is a major handicap in at-risk youth, they are acting, not being.

When we’re born, we’re nurtured by our parents or family, sometimes another relative, adoptive parents, or a foster family. Our character is greatly influenced by how we’re treated during this period. We may be raised more to be the True Self, or have a raising that promotes the ego. Often it’s some balance of these two. The True Self expresses happiness, joy, peace, confidence, forgiveness, cleverness, love, etc., but the  ego side is accompanied by fear, pride, judgement, inferiority, rage, etc.

These energy states are stored the layers of our bodies and minds. When one of these states shows its head, it’s rather easy to deal with and heal, but when it’s buried deeply in the layers of body and mind, it takes life-long effort and suffering with bad relationships and poor life quality even to recognize it enough to try to find a solution.

When we mention at-risk youth, we are talking about the messages and damage they have been hiding under their body-mind layers. When they are troubled teenagerdepressed, or scream at their parents, or run away, they are expressing the distress they carry, and need someone who knows how to read these signs to help. The person that can read these signs is also someone who also can read their minds, which means it is someone who can also read themselves.

The mentor for these kids must know what and how to observe them, and know how to listen and what to listen for, and how to absorb all possible information from them. If the mentor doesn’t know how to do these things, they will just end up telling them what they think the young people need to hear. They won’t know how to get on the same page as the teenager. Lecturing and trying to “fix” them will only stir resentment, conflict, and turmoil.

In other words, the mentor needs to try to stay in a meditative state, completely relaxed, easy, deep breathing, and truly flexible. Truly, society needs more observers, instead of invaders trying to solve problems, especially when working with at-risk youth.


At-risk youth are fearful, feel inferior, distrustful, angry, lonely, hesitant, and confused.  To be able to relate to them in a way that doesn’t intimidate them or trigger reactions, one must not confront their ego, their first defense.

We need to remember that we all have these emotions either on or underneath the surface. One takes advice easily when one’s True Self has been more nurtured than the ego, but when one is nurtured on the negative , ego-side, more, having been fed negativity, we react with negativity as our defense. We see things through negative eyeglasses. We have to make sure our own eyeglasses are clean and clear before we will be able to observe the damaged places in the youths body, mind, and emotions. Then we can take clean tissue and begin clearing their glasses off with them. Using clean tissue means we keep feeding them positive information and energy.

In order to feed them this better energy, the mentor must first make sure their ego side is protected, not threatened. I have concluded these things from years of experience. For example: one youth shows up with a very rebellious attitude toward you. Most people would try to get rid of that attitude by explaining why they should change the attitude, and threatening them with dire consequences.

However, this is just another suppressing way that temporarily pushes out the attitude sideways, but sooner or later, like a yo-yo, it will bounce back with serious impact.

A better approach would be to just calm down their fears, speak calmly to their rage, bolster their inferiority with a gracious and soft, deep voice. Protect them like your newborn baby, and do not upset or disturb them. The youth will begin to look at you with open eyes, then to look at you with a more open mind.

Inside of yourself, you speak to them, saying, “I am all here for you. I accept whoever you are as you are, and I will be with you as one. You will have more fear, rage, and sadness as we proceed, but I will be with you to hold your hand so you are not overwhelmed by those feelings.”

This is how you protect their ego. Protect them first, so they don’t run away from you until you can establish and strong bond. Once you have this bond, you can begin guiding them as a mentor. The key to success with at-risk youth is in opening their heart first, but before this can happen, their ego must feel safe with you.

working with teens


To be an observer, and protect the teen’s ego, and to NOT BE SWAYED by their ego, is not as easy as it looks! It takes effort to stay in that state, that is, the meditative state. Without disciplined physical and mental power, it is very difficult, if not impossible. It’s power comes from the root energy deep inside you that accumulates over years of practice, asceticism, and training.

You are only able to ground yourself when in the states of “cool head, open mind, and warm abdomen”.

It is  a very honest state. There can be no busy mind, no pretending heart, and no cold and weak abdomen. You have to exercise and purify your emotions daily. You have to eat right to feel and breathe better. Your discipline matters with grounding yourself. Your passion to help them is proportional to disciplining yourself.

One person’s life changes as much as you are changed, grounded, stronger and peaceful. Tao is not learning, knowledge, or teaching. It is DOING. Only DOING saves you and others such as at-risk youth. How many push ups you do, how early you woke up, how much you chewed on your food, or how organized you are, these are the answers to Grounding Yourself.

These are the life-changing secrets that I have found for mentoring at-risk youth.


About Terri

Terri Kang has been teaching yoga and meditation to kids and teens between 5 and 17 at the Brain Education in Korea for four years. She developed various programs to help students improve their body, mind, and brain power and implemented this program to help them improve their school grades, social relationships, leadership, and English Language skills.

She’s been working at Tao Healing Center as a Tao Teacher since November, 2011. She’s taught Tao yoga, meditation, and delivered Tao Principles to a wide range of people. Her passion is finding a solution for Parkinson’s Disease since her father was diagnosed with Parkinson.  She will be soon teaching brain exercises at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre in Phoenix, AZ.

About Tao Healing

taoLogoThe Tao Healing Center provides training and education for holistic health and personal development through classes, workshops, and personal coaching. All of the teachings at Tao Healing Center are based on the ancient wisdom principles of Tao, which has been benefiting countless people for thousands of years.

At the Tao Healing Center, we educate people about the principles of Tao. We help you to awaken your ability to heal yourself and create healthy and happy relationships and a balanced lifestyle by cultivating your inner power and wisdom.

In order to reach a broader audience and to meet the increasing needs from the public for guidance on balanced living, we are currently expanding its operations to local communities and providing free classes to disabled veterans, seniors, and students.



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