Parents need to be mindful of how their children are feeling when the news is full of frightening events. Stories about violent protests, natural disasters, and political turmoil are prominent on every news source. Adolescents are at an emotional point in their development, and parents need to be aware of the effects these stories have on their teens. It is very important to talk to your children about these events and others they worry about. Here are some tips for how you might approach these discussions.
There are many people who protest in peaceful ways. The media often does not focus on these protests; perhaps you can spend some time with your child showing him news stories that are focusing on the peaceful, more effective protests. Also, read about Martin Luther King Jr., who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 amid the racial tensions of the 1960s.
When natural disasters occur, adolescents need to learn that their actions can help alleviate the suffering of others. One person might not make a huge dent, but many working together can. You can encourage your kids to lead or participate in an effort that will directly provide aid to the people they are hearing about in the news. This helps change your child’s emotional response to the news from fear into compassion for others.
People can disagree about politics (or anything else) and still like one another. Unfortunately, that message is not the one portrayed by candidates running for office. With my own children, I tried to point out that there are risks and benefits for every choice we make. During political campaigns I encouraged them to read each candidate’s platform before deciding who they support. In this way, they can have an informed discussion with their friends who support a different candidate. This same approach can work when discussing any news story because the chances are great that you are not hearing the full truth. One must seek the other side of each story before deciding what to believe.
Adolescents in particular are affected by events they hear on the news or read about on the Internet. Parents can help alleviate their fears by talking about them with their children, helping seek the full story in each case, and providing some guidance for positive ways to make a difference in the world. I believe that most teens are good people. With parental help, teens can become analytical thinkers who are equipped to make a real difference in the world.
Livia McCoy spent many years teaching upper school science. She currently serves as Dean of Student Support at The Steward School in Richmond, VA. Livia sees each student as an individual with great potential to learn, and feels her job is to help every student figure out how to be successful in school. Livia says, “I blog about the many smart students who struggle in school because they think differently or have attention issues. I share what I have learned helping these students, their parents and teachers to see how they can experience success in school.” Livia welcomes comments on her blog at SchoolFamily.com.