Top tips for talking to teens – world events and trauma
It’s hard enough for adults, to come to terms with recent world events, like the terrorist attack in New Zealand. But it can be even harder, to talk with your teen about it. Here are 5 tips for speaking to teens about difficult world events:
- Don’t NOT say anything…teens are usually already hearing about world events, especially distressing ones, from school friends, teachers, and via social media. Pretending it’s not happening, will likely just leave your teen confused and feeling some pretty tricky emotions on their own. Make an effort to bring it up in conversation, eg. at dinner time or when a news article comes on the TV. Then they’ll have more opportunities to ask questions, and process what they’re hearing.
- Find out what they know already and clarify any details – a good starting point is asking what they’ve already heard about it, and then clarify any wonky thinking or misinformed details. Hearing snippets of news can leave a situation wide open to interpretation
- Acknowledge/express your own emotions – you don’t have to have all the answers, sometimes it’s just as helpful for them to hear “I feel pretty overwhelmed about it all myself, it makes me feel sad/angry/confused too”. Vulnerability strengthens connection.
- Reassure them – that they are safe, and help to broaden their perspective – when they’re able to, focus on the helpers – the people that put their lives on the line to help the survivors, any silver linings eg. increased gun control, amazing displays of leadership from politicians, the people that ‘got away’ and survived.
- Self care – especially important at times of traumatic news/events. Discuss responsible use of media – taking breaks from news coverage, getting outside, hanging with friends, and check in on them regularly to help them process thoughts and feelings that arise. Look out for signs of them not coping – loss of appetite, poor sleep, different mood to the usual ups and downs of teenage-hood. Vulnerable teens (who already have anxiety/depression) may need extra support at this time – see your usual mental health clinician, or ask your GP or paediatrician.